Nepal Gets Third King in Three Days
Nepal crowned its third king in three days Monday as police fired tear gas at rioters who demanded to know whether it was a lovestruck prince or a political conspiracy that killed nine royals.
The State Council, which oversees royal affairs, met Monday morning and proclaimed the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Dipendra, dead and former Prince Gyanendra, who had been acting king, monarch. Gyanendra is the slain King Birendra's younger brother.
But many Nepalese have taken to the streets, unable to believe what officials are privately saying: that Dipendra, 29, killed his parents, four members of his family and himself after being forbidden from marrying the woman he loved. Some blamed their new king for the deaths and others cited a political or military conspiracy.
Thousands of mostly young men marched, chanting "Dipendra is innocent," and "Punish the real murderers."
Earlier, thousands lined the path of a somber royal procession as the new king rode in a horse-drawn carriage from one palace, where he was enthroned, to another that will be his official residence — the scene of the killings that left this impoverished Himalayan nation stunned and searching for answers.
There was hardly any applause, and few people along the route clasped their hands together in the traditional Hindu greeting of respect when their new monarch passed. As Gyanendra arrived at the residential palace, a lone supporter shouted, "Long live the king," but he got no response from the crowd.
Appearing at a palace enthronement ceremony, his head shaven in a traditional show of respect for the dead, Gyanendra sat on his throne, wearing a crown topped with a large cream-colored plume.
The new king issued a statement promising the Nepalese people a full explanation of the palace killings, a day after he infuriated many by attributing the bloodbath to "accidental" fire from an automatic weapon.
He also offered a partial explanation: Since Dipendra was technically the king over the weekend, he was above reproach under Nepal's constitution and by tradition.
"The facts could not be made public in yesterday's statement due to legal and constitutional hurdles. I will make the facts of the incident public after an investigation," Gyanendra said.
Monarchs have little formal power in Nepal, but public criticism is taboo. Under the constitution, the king is immune from prosecution, and Parliament is prohibited from discussing the affairs of the royal family.
Officials initially said Dipendra was on life support after fatally shooting the king and queen and six other royals. Three other members of the royal family were wounded.
The shots rang out while the royal family was gathered for dinner Friday night to discuss Dipendra's wedding. Sources close to the family said the prince wanted to marry the daughter of a former government minister who is a member of the aristocratic Rana family, which ruled Nepal until 1951.
His mother, Queen Aiswarya, reportedly rejected the idea and preferred an arranged marriage, which most Nepalese have.
However, a newspaper reported Monday that Maoist rebels who want to topple the constitutional monarchy reportedly rejected the idea that the royal family was killed by a smitten prince, instead pointing to a "grave political conspiracy."
The Katmandu Post, an independent English-language daily, carried a statement signed by Prachanda, the president of the underground CPN-Maoist party. He called the shootings a "pre-planned massacre" that would end Nepal's present political system.
A funeral for Dipendra was expected later in the day — with much of Nepal, a nation of 22 million, already shut down for a five-day period of mourning for the slain royals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.