Nepal’s Clown Prince At It Again

113

Paras Shah, son of Nepal’s deposed monarch and once the crown prince, is in the headlines here again. Press reports say that he fired a handgun during an argument with the son-in-law of Nepal’s deputy prime minister, while both were staying with their families at the upscale Tiger Tops Resort in Chitwan National Park. Shah is said to have become enraged after drinking heavily and to have threatened Rubel Chaudhary with the gun before firing it into the air.

The story rings true based on the ex-prince’s past behavior. Prior to the June 2001 massacre in which King Birendra and most of his family died, the palace was able to keep most of Paras’ antics out of the media. But stories circulated through Kathmandu about the prince firing his pistol in a disco when the DJ wouldn’t change the music, about his tangling with security guards while on holiday, and about his having shot a police officer who stopped his car during a general strike.

Despite the palace spin control, Shah made the news in the summer of 2000 when the police filed a First Information Report against him after his car hit and killed a motorcyclist, popular Nepali singer Praveen Gurung. The hit-and-run accident was seen by palace security guards, who noted the vehicle description and license number. The charges were later dropped when a junior Army officer came forward and said that he had been driving the prince’s car that night.

Newspapers reported the confession with skepticism, and there were rumors that massive payments had been made to Gurung’s family and the scapegoat officer. It was also said that the king ordered Shah not to drive a car for a year, after which the prince bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle to ride around town.

After the palace massacre, widespread public suspicion in Nepal that Paras had played a part in it gave the media more freedom to report on his activities. An argument with his wife at the Yak and Yeti Hotel’s disco made headlines after it carried on into the parking lot, where the prince reportedly fired his handgun into the air. And in October 2004 an argument at another disco turned violent, and Paras and his friends beat the son of a prominent hotelier so severely that he was hospitalized and unable to walk.

In that case the king reportedly intervened with police and with the victim’s father, a close friend, to stop charges from being filed against the prince. But in republican Nepal there is no palace protection for Paras, and the deputy prime minister’s influential political family is no friend of the Shahs. Both the police and the Army, which controls security inside the national parks, are investigating, and Paras has issued a statement admitting that he fired his gun, blaming the incident on his anger over political comments made by Chaudhary.

And the gun appears to be unlicensed, a serious crime in Nepal. With the incident in the public spotlight and politicians of all stripes calling for action, the unpopular ex-prince is likely to face both assault and weapons charges, and possible jail time of four to seven years.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.