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Profile: Nepal's ex-king Gyanendra

King Gyanendra
The king has endured a spectacular fall from grace

Gyanendra of Nepal assumed the throne in dramatic circumstances in 2001 after his brother, King Birendra, was killed in a palace massacre.

Gyanandra's reign has been brief but traumatic.

He inherited a country wracked by a violent Maoist insurgency. During his six years in power he went from being the country's undisputed absolute leader to a disgraced monarch accused of orchestrating the killings of his own people.

The king's response to the threat posed by the Maoists was to dismiss Nepal's elected government in October 2002.

A year later he declared a state of emergency and sent troops to fight the rebels when peace talks collapsed.

Gyanendra appointed a series of prime ministers before sacking the government and assuming complete control in February 2005. It was a move which was to precipitate the end of the country's 240-year-old Shah dynasty.

Weeks of demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people secured the end of direct palace rule in April 2006.

By December of that year seven parties, including the former Maoist rebels and the government party, agreed to abolish monarchy.

In May the country was declared a republic by the Maoist-led constituent assembly and in the following month the former king vacated his palace in central Kathmandu.

Nepalese parliament
Power in Nepal now lies with the new constituent assembly

The newly installed Maoist-led government says that the palace - along with other royal properties - will be nationalised. It says that the former king will be free to carry on living in Nepal as an ordinary tax paying citizen and will not be forced into exile.

That is the final humiliation for a former monarch who over the last few years has been removed as head of the army and lost nearly all his staff.

In addition he has suffered the indignities of having his allowances cut by parliament and his face removed from the country's currency.

Direct power

The king's ostensible reason for the 2005 royal coup was that successive administrations had not done enough to end the Maoist rebellion.

Supporters of an absolute monarchy in Nepal had been pressing for him to deal directly with the crisis.

It was the first royal takeover since Nepal abolished absolute monarchy and elected its first prime minister in 1991.

Gyanendra had consistently denied before his coup that he was exercising executive power himself.

Anti-king protest in Kathmandu
The king's executive powers sparked protests during 2004

On seizing power, he said he had acted because the cabinet had failed to fulfil its mandate, including the restoration of peace.

Many in the international community criticised his actions.

The United States, Britain and India responded by stopping the supply of arms to the Royal Nepalese Army. Many other countries suspended aid commitments.

All urged the king to reconcile with political parties to resolve the country's deepening crisis.

Escalating violence

The Maoist insurgency began in 1996. The civil war took the lives of more than 13,000 people. Towards the end of the conflict, much of the countryside was under rebel control and Kathmandu was subject to frequent blockades and bomb attacks.

From the outset, the rebels said that they wanted to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist republic.

Maoists in western Nepal
The king has been constantly at loggerheads with the Maoists

They stepped up their campaign of violence after Gyanendra assumed the throne, in what proved to be a baptism of fire for the new ruler.

After the royal coup, rebel violence showed no signs of abating, with escalating raids on government targets, general strikes and bloody clashes with security forces.

King Gyanendra insisted that he was still committed to democracy and multi-party rule and repeated pledges that he would hold general elections by 2007.

Local elections, opposed by the rebels and opposition parties, took place in February 2006.

But large numbers of opposition protesters, including leading politicians, and journalists were detained or placed under house arrest in the campaign against the king.

Strict media curbs were enforced after the coup, but then gradually relaxed.

Businessman

Immediately after ascending the throne in June 2001, King Gyanendra sought to make his future role clear.

He said he would not be a silent king like his brother, who agreed to be a constitutional monarch following a people's uprising in 1990.

King Gyanendra extensively toured the country giving speeches about making people the first priority in politics.

In February 2004, he famously said the "days of monarchy being seen but not heard... are over".

Many people soon doubted his promises, particularly when he announced a six-fold increase in the royal household budget and began consolidating his authority.

Gyanendra, who was born in July 1947, is married and has two children.

His business interests - which will become much more important to him now he is no longer king - have included a hotel in Kathmandu, a tea estate in the east of Nepal and a cigarette factory.

The deposed king is a leading figure in the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation in Nepal and has worked closely with the World Wildlife Fund.

His hobbies include reading and writing poetry.


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