About Nepal's spoilt ex-crown prince


Kathmandu: The first member of Nepal's once ruling Shah dynasty to be arrested and to face legal action, deposed crown prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah's fall comes after a life-time of notoriety that went unpunished due to the exalted status of his family for 240 years.

The 39-year-old comes from a scion that was once all-powerful and above law. There were rumours of his uncle and granduncles being involved in crimes ranging from drug and antique smuggling to the rape and murder of three college girls but none ever faced any investigation thanks to the power of the palace.

Paras himself ran up a formidable reputation for his drinks-fuelled rages in public places that, once again, went unpunished.

In 2000, when Paras had not yet been elevated to crown prince but was the nephew of the then king Birendra, his Pajero ran over the motorcycle of a popular folk singer, Praveen Gurung, near the Narayanhity Palace, causing Gurung's death.

Though his driver took the rap, Paras faced some disquiet as the communists led a public signature campaign and petitioned the king to strip the wayward prince of his title.

While King Birendra was said to be troubled by the public complaints, his assassination in 2001 put paid to the initiative to bring Paras under control.

Though an official inquiry into the palace massacre blamed Birendra's son Dipendra for the carnage in which 10 people died, people still believe Paras had a role, especially as he survived the bloodbath unscathed.

Even if he had not been instrumental in the actual killing, the popular suspicion is that he supplied Dipendra with drugs to fuel his rage against his parents.

Though Gyanendra ascended the throne in June 2001 after his elder brother's murder, he waited for a considerable period of time before declaring Paras the new crown prince for fear of a public outcry.

Since he became crown prince, Paras was involved in at least three incidents of brawling in a public place.

In one of them, he had an argument with his wife, the then Crown Princess Himani, and fired several shots in the air outside a nightclub.

In another, he brawled with a member of aristocracy, who was also the son of his granduncle and his father's trusted business partner.

Paras assaulted both his kinsman and the latter's fiancee but the matter was hushed up.

During the last days of King Gyanendra's reign, when the king's motorcade was stoned by angry demonstrators, Paras stormed into the police station and assaulted the policemen there.

Though he suffered a heart attack in 2007 and was advised by doctors to give up drinking and smoking, the wayward former royal chose to go his own way.

After the abolition of monarchy in 2008, a smouldering Paras, who blamed his father for gambling away his legacy, decided to shift base to Singapore. However, with royalists beginning a campaign for the restoration of monarchy and the parties floundering to get the new constitution ready, he began to spend longer periods of time in Nepal.

The former crown prince began to patronise Hindu programmes as the pro-Hinduism lobby was the biggest champion of monarchy and even hinted at starting a political party.

Even if Saturday's brawl, which landed Paras in police custody finally, doesn't translate into legal action due to socio-political factors, it would still be a bad rap on the knuckles for the former royal and a reminder that under the changed times, he could no longer hope to enjoy the free rein his forefathers enjoyed.

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