Gurkhas seek honour for Lumley

KATHMANDU: Euphoric Gurkha veterans and their families are all praise for model-turned English actress Joanna Lumley for her tireless support to Gurkhas in their legal battle against the British government. Lumley, 63, who is also a human rights defender, played a big role in ending British government’s unfair treatment to Gurkhas.

The British government on May 21 officially decided to allow Gurkha war veterans, who retired before 1997 with at least four years’ service, to settle in the United Kingdom.

Although Lumley is a towering personality in British entertainment world, she is best known for her support to Gurkhas. Krishna Kumar Rai, acting president of Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen’s Organisation called on the government of Nepal to confer the highest civilian award on Lumley in recognition of her contribution to Nepal and Nepalis. “She backed thousands of Gurkha veterans to press the British government to agree to their demand. The government should do the needful to honour Lumley,” added Rai.

Lumley’s father, Major James Rutherford Lumley, served in the 6th Gurkha Rifles, a regiment of the British Indian Army. During the World War II, Maj Lumley was entrusted with handling the Gurkhas against Japanese force at a command post in Burma. As the ground battle was nearing climax, he suffered a bullet wound. Tul Bahadur Pun, who was later conferred with Victoria Cross (VC), rescued his commander risking his own life and rushed him to the medical post.

As it were, Joanna stumbled upon a diary of her father after his death. All these accounts were recorded in the diary. “Nepali Gurkhas are loyal, honest and gallant soldiers. Were it not for Tul Bahadur Pun, enemies would have killed me,” states an entry in Major Lumley’s dairy. It was this diary that motivated Lumley to fight on the behalf of Gurkhas.

She calls VC Pun her father figure. Rai said, “We will invite her to Nepal to honour her on our own if the government pays no heed to our demand.”

Meanwhile, Universal Society of Hinduism in the UK has also urged the government of Nepal to honour Lumley with the highest civilian award. She is a recipient of the highest civilian award of India for her human and animal rights campaigns. Lumley is reportedly in line to receive damehood from the British government.