Kathmandu, March 19
As their ultimatum served to both Nepal and British governments expired yesterday, former British Gurkhas today announced protest programmes to press both the governments to form high-level dialogue teams to address their demands for equal treatment in line with a tripartite technical committee report.
The former Gurkhas have been demanding that besides providing them with pay and pension equal to those offered to British soldiers, the British government should compensate the entire amount that former and serving Gurkhas did not receive over the years due to discrimination against them in terms of pay, pension and other facilities.
The former Gurkhas had served March 18 ultimatum to both the governments to form talks teams to resolve issues raised in the tripartite report prepared by ‘The Gurkha Technical Committee’ comprised of officials from the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence and officials from the Embassy of Nepal in the UK, together with representatives of Gurkha veterans groups. The report was submitted to both governments on 22 March 2018.
“Since the two governments did not show any urgency to form the talks team, we are compelled to announce protests,” said Krishna Bahadur Rai, chief coordinator of Gurkha Satyagraha United Struggle Committee, at an event to announce the protest.
As per the plan, the former Gurkhas will immediately ask institutions providing training to Gurkhas to halt their operations. They will then organise mass meet and protest rallies simultaneously in Nepal and London from March 26.
They plan to organise a huge demonstrations with participation of thousands of ex-Gurkhas simultaneously in London and Kathmandu on May 4, following which rallies will be held in London and Kathmandu every 15 days till July 1 to press the two governments to form talks teams.
“If the talks teams are not formed by July 1, we will shut the doors for talks and launch decisive protests such as staging fast-unto-death and disrupting Gurkha recruitment,” said Rai. “The protests after July 1 will end only after the British government unconditionally addresses our issues raised in the technical committee report.”
Rai, however, said they were open for a ‘negotiated settlement’ if the high-level dialogue committee was formed before July 1. He said they waited until July 1 as the Parliamentary International Relations Committee on March 15 endorsed a ‘Report Related to Addressing Problems of Former British Gurkhas’ that directs the government to form a high-level talks team to hold dialogue with the British government in line with the tripartite ‘Report of The Technical Committee on Gurkha Veterans’.
The Gurkhas have demanded Nepal government’s strong initiative to solve this ‘national’ problem, as the British government had already said the problem would be solved on government-to-government basis via diplomatic channels.
Citing how Algeria government strongly took up a similar issue with the French government and the Philippines with Britain, the former Gurkhas wondered why the Nepal government was least bothered about discrimination against its citizens.
The former Gurkhas have already rejected the UK government’s recent announcement of an increased support package, stating the announcement did not address their demand for equal treatment.
“The British government said it hiked our pensions by up to 34 percent and announced health facilities as per the discussion with Nepal government. Does this address our demand for equal treatment? The Nepal government should furnish an answer,” said Rai.
The British government started providing equal pay and pension to Nepalis in 2007. Since Gurkhas retire after 15 years of service, those who were recruited after 1993 retired after 2007, and became eligible for equal pension. But they were deprived of equal pay and facilities for their service period before 2007, according to the Gurkhas.
Also, those recruited from 1975 to 1993 and retired before 2007 were deprived of equal pay, pension and facilities. Moreover, those who served the British Army from 1947 to 1975 when there was no provision for pension were not provided equal pay and facilities. The Gurkhas say the discrimination was so ridiculous that those retiring before 2007 were paid up to 1,000 per cent less in pension than that paid to British soldiers.
“It is an irony that the biggest advocate of human rights, the UK, is violating all human rights norms by discriminating against us,” said the struggle committee’s General Sectary SB Ghising.
A version of this article appears in print on March 20, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.