Monday, November 06, 2006

It’s Aishwarya, After All

Coincidences can be cruel and some should not be commented upon, especially where much-earned conjugal bliss is involved. Yet the case here has crucial relevance for modern Nepali history.
Devyani Rana, the women at the center of the Narayanhity massacre five years ago, was formally engaged to Aishwarya Singh, grandson of India’s Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh, in New Delhi on Sunday. Devyani can finally hope to put the past behind her. But wishes alone cannot put asunder what chance has put together.
The fact that the bridegroom shares his name with Devyani’s would-be mother-in-law will remain etched in some recess of the Nepali psyche. What happened on that tragic night has been examined from all conceivable quarter. As a political expedient, the Seven Party Alliance as well as the Maoists have used the tragedy to denigrate King Gyanendra and his family.
What hasn’t received sufficient attention is what Devyani knew and when. When Crown Prince Dipendra, as patron of the Nepal Olympics Committee, left for the Sydney Games, even Devyani’s closest confidantes didn’t have a clue she was heading that way. Yet two weeks sounds to long for a couple to maintain secrecy, especially amid all the other congenitally inquisitive Nepalis in the entourage.
Surely, Minister of State for Communication Dilendra Prasad Badu, who accompanied Crown Prince Dipendra to the Sydney Games as assistant sports minister, must be in a position to shed light.
Specifically, why had Devyani phoned Crown Prince Dipendra’s ADC sounding almost desperate for her boyfriend’s wellbeing when in fact the host of the Friday dinner was still playing billiards?
What she said must have been compelling enough. For ADC Raju Karki, due to leave for the United States the following morning, went to the palace to inquire about the crown prince after his initial protestations to Devyani that he was off duty.
If the probe commission got its timeline wrong, then Devyani could have disputed it. Yet she has chosen to remain silent. Silence is her right.
After all, Devyani’s own emotional travails were submerged in the obsession with Crown Prince Dipendra’s inner conflicts. A steady relationship with the crown prince must have excluded a bevy of suitors reconciled to the good fortune of a future monarch.
Devyani’s refusal to depose before the probe panel was understandable, considering how distraught she must have been. Yet her flight to India when all of the other living protagonists remained in Kathmandu to face the condemnation/commiseration of ordinary Nepalis seemed a little disconcerting.
In any case, Devyani is too central to the most tragic episode of our history to take the Nepali equivalent of the Fifth Amendment.
With her dad, Rastriya Prajatanta Party President Pashupati Shamsher Rana, recently having sounded ambivalent to the idea of retaining the monarchy in any form, Devyani might be able to shed some light on Nepal’s road ahead without even knowing it.