In using the very outdated 1947 treaty, they are exploiting the Gurkhas by using the Indian pay code (dating from the days of the British Raj back in India prior 1947), which means the government has found a 'loophole', if you will, where they can get away with paying the Gurkha soldiers significantly less than their British soldier counterparts
Indian Army Chief of Staff Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw once acknowledged that "if a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha".
The Gurkhas are soldiers from Nepal who are one of the top elite military units of the world, serving in the Indian Army and British Army for the last 207 years.
As quoted above, Gurkhas are known to be as fearless in combat as they are good-natured in daily life.
After a series of hardfought battles, the historic Treaty of Sugauli on March 4, 1816 was reached between Nepal and the East India Company.
When the Anglo Nepali War of 1814-16 was over with the signing of the Treaty of Sugauli, both sides decided that they would be safer as friends than enemies, and from that point, Gurkha regiments began to be raised as part of the East India Company's army.
Since then, we have seen and heard of stories of the Gurkhas with their self-proclaimed motto: 'It is better to die than to live like a coward'. In 1815, the Gurkhas' fighting qualities were recognised, and they were first enlisted in the armies of the British Crown.
Their courage and resilience are a novelty we are seeing again in the mundane but hopeful year of 2021.
Opposite 10 Downing Street, the official residence and the office of the British Prime Minister, the Gurkhas protested in August with a hunger strike to campaign for equal pension pay for those retiring before 1997 and who are not eligible for full UK Armed Forces pension.
In 2007, pension rules were amended that gave Gurkha soldiers still serving and those who retired after 1997 pension rights equal to those of other service personnel in the UK.
But the new rules did not apply to those who retired before July 1, 1997. It was to protest against this discrimination that a few Gurkha veterans began a hunger strike on August 7.
One spokesperson among the crowd of strikers, an ex-Gurkha, said: 'I don't care if I die'. This perseverance seems to be in the Gurkhas' blood as Dhan Gurung also stated: 'We want to carry on, we don't want to give up.' British officials assign different lengths of service for the disparity in pensions between Nepali Gurkhas and their British compatriots.
While British soldiers retire after 22 years of service, a Nepali Gurkha is allowed to do so after 15 years.
The Gurkhas' fight for justice and equal treatment has been long and arduous.
In 2003, a court verdict went against them.
And the European Court of Human Rights in 2016 ruled that the exclusion of Gurkhas who served before July 1, 1997 were 'objectively and reasonably justified'.
Five years later, the Gurkhas are demanding 'justice' once again. Gurung, who is currently receiving a fraction of the pension due to the GPS (Gurkhas Pension Scheme) being based on the Indian Army rates, explained that in 1994 his retirement amounted to only £20 a month, which trapped him and his family in poverty.
Gurkha veterans previusly failed a legal chalenge against the situation, hich was said to have left 5,000 older Nepali veterns out of pocket.
Additionally, British acress and campaigner Joana Lumley, whose father erved in the 6th Gurkha ifles, joined the hunger trikers outside Downing treet to speak out about how we 'cannot praise our veterans to the high heavens when it suits them but ignore them and condemn them to poverty when it doesn't'.
The UK government for the last 207 years, in dealing with veterans' pension, have applied the same traditional system – divide and rule, in which the Gurkhas and the British are left segregated.
In using the very outdated 1947 treaty, they are exploiting the Gurkhas by using the Indian pay code (dating from the days of the British Raj back in India prior 1947), which means the government has found a 'loophole', if you will, where they can get away with paying the Gurkha soldiers significantly less than their British soldier counterparts.
Furthermore, the Nepali government is also not taking the case very seriously as it hesitates to raise the matter strictly with the British government.
Withal, there is a light: after 13 days with more than 100 protestors marching alongside the group in support, on August 18 and with one of the members, Dhan Gurung, even being taken to hospital due to the hunger strike after his heart slowed down (although later being discharged), the Ministry of Defence agreed to meet the Nepali ambassador, Lokdarshan Regmi, and the group the following month to talk over pension rights grievances.
The Ministry of Defence said: "We greatly value the huge contribution the Gurkhas make to the British Army and ensure they are supported with a generous pension and medical care during retirement in Nepal.
We look forward to meeting with the group next month alongside the Nepali ambassador to move forward together."
Further, the petition to support the Gurkhas equal pension rights has generated more than 105,435 signatures online so far.
In a tweet, the Gurkha Equal Rights campaign group wrote: "The hunger strike is over, but the next battle has just begun in the 30+ year war for equal rights.
Preparations for dialogue begin on September 8, to schedule a meeting in December with the British and Nepali governments and Gurkha veterans. The last hunger strike was in 2013, and a meeting never happened. We need to make sure we hold both the British and Nepali government accountable in their negotiations."
As the UK is the mother country of democracy, human rights and freedom, we can only hope this means that the Gurkhas' hunger strike and endless campaigning will be met with a strategic new plan to eradicate the exclusion of the Gurkhas, who served before 1997 or will we see Gurung's words regarding the British government as 'penny-pinching' be proved to be a tale as old as time?
A version of this article appears in the print on September 21 2021, of The Himalayan Times.