Gurkha achievements and challenges More miles to notch

The Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen’s Organisation (GAESO) was established in 2047 to redress the age old discrimination meted out to Gurkhas by the British government. All retired Gurkhas flooded into this organisation thinking that their dreams would come true. As time passed, this body expanded not only across Nepal but to the U.K., Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, etc.

GAESO had put forward the following 4 demands to the British government: due compensation with honour for those who were demobilized after war without compensation and pension; equal remuneration and equal pension: employment visa in the UK; and proper education with employment opportunity for the children of

retired Gurkhas.

According to clause 1 of the annexure III of the 1947 Tri-Partite Agreement (TPA) (an exchange letter submitted by Prime Minister Padma Shumsher J.B. Rana of Nepal), Gurkhas were to be treated equally. The clause runs, “In all matters of promotion, welfare and other facilities the Gurkha troops should be treated on the same footing as the other units in the parent army so that the stigma of mercenary troops may for all time be wiped out.”

Contrarily, the British government is guilty of glaring discrimination against Gurkhas up until

the present day. It persistently argued that it could not raise Gurkha facilities to parity with British ones due to the TPA, which, as proved by clause 1, was a blatant lie.

The British government was in fact referring to clause 11 of the bilateral agreement signed only between India and Britain, and not Nepal. When this flaw in their reasoning

was raised, the British government claimed that, as India is a party of the TPA, the prior approval of the Indian government was required in order to raise Gurkha benefits and

facilities to the level of British counterparts.

In due course, India clarified that it had nothing to do with British discrimination against Gurkhas: Gurkhas in the Indian Army have been treated equally. In response, the British

advanced a third argument based on the disparity in the cost of living. Britain is a founder member of the UN and so fully aware that the UN, in 1974, ended unfair treatment against the soldiers of developing countries working for the UN as peace keepers.

Owing to Britain’s unyielding reluctance to treat Gurkhas on an equal footing, GAESO must continue and intensify its campaign both inside and outside the country. With ovver 15 years of campaigning, GAESO has already made great achievements.

These include the 10,000 sterling pound compensation to approximately 4,000 World War II Gurkha prisoners of war held by Japan; settlement rights in the UK to those retired on or after 1 July 1997; a significant increase in Gurkha pensions; and victory in several individual Gurkha cases etc. However, complete equality between Gurkha and British pensions is yet to be achieved.

On September 30, 2008, the High Court ruled that all Gurkha veterans should be given residency rights in the UK. However, Gordon Brown’s government unveiled new conditions which limited those Gurkhas who would enjoy settlement rights in the UK to only a few hundred.

For many years, Liberal Democratic Party leader, Peter Carroll, has been fighting for Gurkha cause, joined recently by the British celebrity, Joanna Lumley.

On 21 May 2009, the British Home Secretary Ms Jacqui Smith officially announced that all

retired Gurkha veterans were to be permitted now to live in the UK.

As a result of Britain’s decision, approximately 80,000 Gurkhas, including dependents, will immigrate to the UK. and enjoy the right to settlement. This act will seriously affect the

financial activities in major towns of Nepal as well as reducing remittances which are currently a major pillar of the Nepali economy.

If the government of Nepal does not introduce a policy of dual citizenship for Gurkhas, they will not return to invest in Nepal and Nepali society will not gain any benefits from this community.

Ironically, a deep rift has appeared within GAESO and as such the entire eastern region and the GAESO UK boycotted the so-called general convention held last April.

The accusations leveled at the establishment were labeling of GAESO as a sister organisation of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML); financial impropriety; extreme tyranny; non-compliance with GAESO By-Laws and financial regulations, collecting 500 pounds per head from some 2,200 poor and innocent Gurkhas illegally for accessing UK lawyers for settlement right; and the blatant lie regarding pension case that was prevented from bwing filed before the High Court.

The principal aim of the rebellion is to further strengthen and consolidate the internationally reputed organisation, GAESO, by correcting these blunders and saving it from


Dr. Kandangwa is an ex-Gurkha and spokesperson of GAESO Central Convention Organising Committee