Nepalese police call new curfew to stop anti-king protests
KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – Police imposed a second curfew in Nepal’s capital Tuesday to prevent protests against King Gyanendra, and a probe into the royal massacre that put him on the throne failed to start as planned.
Members of the panel quarreled over how to proceed with the investigation – a delay that could heighten tensions in Nepal.
Katmandu stayed mostly calm on Tuesday, though police fired tear gas to disperse a small crowd that was taunting officers in the suburb of Patan, according to one witness who said there were no injuries.
But it remained unclear how Nepalese will behave once they can freely move about the streets.
The killing of King Birendra, the queen and eight other royals has filled people with rage. Many are critical of Gyanendra, who took the throne Monday after Crown Prince Dipendra allegedly killed the royals. Some say the new monarch lost credibility by blaming the incident on ”accidental” automatic weapon fire.
”The situation in the country is really bad,” said Rabin Nakarmi, a technician who ventured out after a curfew imposed to stop riots on Monday was lifted and before police clamped down with a new noon-to-midnight curfew Tuesday.
Police warned people they could be shot if they left their homes.
The public fury has been fueled by neighborhood gossip, overwhelming grief and the lack of any official explanation of the royal shootings that deprived Nepal of its beloved king.
”Never in my wildest dream did I think this would happen, but the worst part is not knowing who did it,” said Amrit Maharjan, a tailor. ”There is doubt and it’s mentally torturing, not knowing the truth, and that is why people are rioting.”
With authorities keeping the streets clear of people, Katmandu avoided a repeat of Monday’s violent protests in which two men were killed, allegedly by police gunfire, and at least 19 people injured.
Gyanendra said on national television Monday night he had ordered an investigation into the killing of the royals.
Officials here have said privately that Dipendra was the gunman – angered when his mother refused his choice of a bride – and that after he sprayed the royal family with gunfire he shot himself.
But the crown prince did not die immediately. He became a monarch while on life support, then died early Monday, clearing the way for Gyanendra to become king.
The probe Gyanendra ordered into the massacre stalled before it could begin amid squabbling among the investigators.
The committee investigating the royal deaths is headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Keshav Prasad Upadhaya and includes opposition leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, a communist who refused to take part Tuesday, saying constitutional procedures dictates Cabinet consent for the probe.
Upadhaya met lawmakers and constitutional experts to try to settle the dispute, but by nightfall there was no indication that the problem had been solved.
About two dozen people, their heads shaven in a traditional Hindu show of respect for the dead, were arrested before Tuesday’s curfew was imposed as they marched toward the royal palace carrying flags.
Tensions flared when dozens of people lining up to sign a condolence book at the palace were turned back.
”We can’t even grieve and mourn anymore,” said shopkeeper K.P. Rauniar. ”We have been restricted. This is terrible.”
The centuries-old monarchy in Nepal, a poor nation of 22 million that sits between China and India and is home to Mount Everest, made way for democracy in 1990. The king remained head of state with influence but little power, while governments came and went – 10 over a decade.
The slain King Birendra was viewed by many as an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu – and many Nepalese cannot believe that his son Dipendra would kill him.
The unrest has prompted U.S., British and Thai officials to urge their citizens to avoid travel to Nepal, a beautiful but impoverished Himalayan nation sandwiched between China and India.
Some visitors scrambled to the Katmandu airport in between curfews, waving wads of cash and jostling for the scarce seats on flights that were still operating.
Others, trapped in luxurious hotels, lunched by the pool under clear blue skies in a city almost as silent as the countryside.
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