Three years after a bizarre palace slaying, the calls are growing to end the monarchy Three years ago tomorrow, Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal, lovesick and high on whiskey and hashish, walked into a palace billiard room and opened fire on his family. It has never been satisfactorily explained why, according to witnesses, he picked off his relatives one by one, including his father King Birendra. After killing nine and wounding four he turned the gun on himself. The family drama that ended in a bizarre machine-gun massacre has had huge political implications for Nepal. Despite the evidence, most Nepalis suspect the new King Gyanendra of some role. Many also find it hard to believe that a son would kill his parents. 'Our [new] king is not popular because he is known as the murderer of his brother, the former king,' says Shree Prasad Sah, a leader of one student faction holding daily anti-monarchy protests. The official version appears to be borne out by the fate of Devyani Rana, Dipendra's lover. She might have become queen of Nepal, but was deemed unsuitable to marry the crown prince because she came from a rival clan. In the days after the slaughter, she fled Nepal and now works for the UN in Geneva. She has never told her side of the story. Conspiracy theories about the killings have fuelled disapproval of the political interventions of the new king, who has taken a much more activist approach than his late brother, King Birendra. After coming to the throne, King Gyanendra soon found himself making difficult political decisions. Under Nepal's constitution he had to give approval to using the army against Maoist rebels. When he did, the conflict escalated. Next, elected prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba dissolved parliament but failed to call elections. Calling Mr Deuba 'incompetent', King Gyanendra sacked him and appointed his own nominee in October 2002. The standoff this created with democratic politicians led to endless demonstrations, with many staged in Kathmandu in recent weeks by political parties. 'If the king is not willing to take the course of consultation [with the political parties] then the future of the monarchy is very uncertain' says Yubaraj Ghimire, a political commentator. Already, the wilder elements at the protests, singing 'Down with the king and kingship,' have added their voice to the republican demands of the Maoists in the hills. Added to King Gyanendra's problems is the unpopularity of his son, Crown Prince Paras, who once killed a popular musician in a hit and run accident. Although Crown Prince Paras has made efforts to improve his image, becoming chairman of a wildlife trust, he has continued to get involved in brawls and extra-marital affairs which go unreported. Besides King Gyanendra and Crown Prince Paras, the only royalty to survive were the king's sister and three young nieces, but as women they are excluded from the succession. Crown Prince Paras had a son last year. With the royal family politically exposed, it is possible that, three years on, the monarchy itself may become the final victim of the palace massacre.