June 4, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Former Indian ambassador to Nepal Professor Bimal Prasad

'Marriage wasn't the cause of the fight'

Professor Bimal Prasad, the ambassador to Nepal between 1991 and 1995 and a former professor of South Asian studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, has been a family friend to the Koiralas for many years. Prasad also worked with former Nepalese prime minister Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala (then in exile in India) during Jayaprakash Narayan's mass movement in 1974-75. JP's movement was against the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi.

At present the honorary director of the Rajendra Prasad Academy and a fellow of the Nehru Memorial museum and library, he spoke to Sheela Bhatt about the prevailing crisis in the Nepalese monarchy.

What will be the diplomatic fallout of the Nepal crisis?

I don't think there will be any serious fallout on Indo-Nepal relations. Indo-Nepal relation are based on a basic understanding. We have a tradition, history, geography, economy and security to share. Change in monarchy will not change things overnight. No doubt people are important but here I see no major change.

The king of Nepal has no role in laying down policies. However, he is not merely a figurehead. He is the head of the army and it reports to him. The top brass of the army take orders only from him. Another important thing about Nepal is that the monarchy is quite popular here. The common man of Nepal thinks that King Birendra was a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. Therefore the kingís opinion counted. No prime minister will ignore the kingís views.

How did you find the late king Birendra?

'Shumsher Jung Bahadur, a Rana ruler had killed all his enemies -- not relatives -- in the palace in the middle of the 19th century'
He was thoughtful, kind and very mature. He was interested in maintaining good relations with India. At the same time he was very alert about the sovereignty of Nepal. He was the most popular person in Nepal, even amongst educated Nepalis. People admired his role during the movement for democracy in Nepal in 1990. He was wise enough to gauge the mood of the people. People were fed up of his personal rule and wanted a constitutional democracy. He didnít suppress or kill them, but settled the issue by inviting the leaders of the movement for talks.

This is unexpected and unheard of. Yes, Shumsher Jung Bahadur was a Rana ruler and had killed all his enemies -- not relatives -- in the palace in the middle of the 19th century. That palace massacre is known as 'kot massacre.í This incident has shocked me. I canít believe this.

Reports suggest that the crown prince wanted to marry Devyani Rana? Are you aware of this?

No. These are unconfirmed reports. And I wonít comment on that. But yes I know Devyani well. She is beautiful. Usha Raje, her mother is Madhavrao Scindia's sister. Pashupati Shumsher Rana, her father is a prominent figure in Nepal politics. A very active and influential politician. He has been in power many times and handled many portfolios. I used to meet him frequently during my stay in Nepal. Because, he was the son-in-law of an Indian family I was quite close to them. Devyani and her sisters are well-groomed, cultured girls. Mohun Shumsher Rana, the last PM of the Rana family was the grandfather of Pashupati Rana. His first cousin is married to Dr Karan Singh (son of Maharaja Hari Singh) of Kashmir.

Has such an event (massacre) ever taken place in Nepalís history?

This is unexpected and unheard of. Yes, Shumsher Jung Bahadur was a Rana ruler who had killed all his enemies -- not relatives -- in the palace in the middle of 19th century. That palace massacre is known as 'kot massacre.' This incident has shocked me. I canít believe this.
'Dipendra was not a loose-talker. I could never imagine him doing such a thing.'

How well did you know crown prince Dipendra?

He was director of the centre of economic development and administration at Tribhuvan University. I wanted to make him India-oriented. On our request he visited India for a week in 1994. He visited Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. On his flights, he was always glued to his computer. At that time he was doing his masters in geography. And later he enrolled for a doctorate in geography. He was impressed by India. I found him quite a serious person. He was not a loose-talker. I could never imagine him doing such a thing.

Prince Gyanendra, his uncle also joined him on this trip to India. He came to look after prince Dipendra. Both had a cordial relation. During that visit I told him that we respected the monarchy. It brings an element of continuity in the polity of Nepal. He was intelligent and mature.

Was there any resistance in the royal family towards marrying a girl with an Indian connection?

No. I donít think so. It's an old tradition that exists between India and Nepal. The tarai areas are so mixed up. King Tribhuvan had two Indian wives. Later his son Mahendra married a Nepali girl of the Rana family. At that time a bit of tradition was set in. But marriages are so common between India and Nepal.

If I am correct, Madhavrao Scindia's wife is Nepali. And Rajmata Vijya Raje Scindiaís father had come from Nepal with lots of gold and lived in exile in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. His palace has now been converted into Sagar University. So marriages between India and Nepal are age old. I donít think the fight was because of this.

Design: Dominic Xavier

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