TOPICS: British Gurkhas’ movement for equality

The ex-British Gurkhas’ movement has been neglected for long. The huge difference in pension between British ex-servicemen and ex-British Gurkhas has embittered the community, which fought shoulder to shoulder with their British counterparts.

The United British Gurkhas Ex-servicemen, Nepal, will continue active opposition until the UK pays Gurkhas on a proportional scale, accepts them as its own nationals, allows easy entry and stay, and guarantees financial security for those handicapped during the wars. Equality between the two sides can be achieved if the ex-British Gurkhas are given pension on the same level to ex-British servicemen.

The moot question is where to draw the line of equality. The British government should pay the Gurkhas equal amount it pays to British personnel or it should pay its ex-men as much as it pays the Gurkhas. It is wrong to assume that Gurkhas wish to stay in the UK as it is their dream land. They want to do so because it is their right in the light of their sacrifices. The UK should adopt legal provisions to let the Gurkhas visit or stay at will. And the main purpose behind Gurkhas’ wanting to go to the UK is that they want to address the wrongs done to them.

The Nepali government is not pushing ahead for a diplomatic solution. The government’s reluctance to settle the issue fuels suspicion that it is looking down upon the ex-Gurkhas’ genuine concern because of the latter’s caste. The recruitment of the Gurkhas started when successive Kings of Nepal were tightening up the hold of a centralised regime. The policy was later changed in favour of power-holders as they feared a revolt. The power holders’ intention of excluding the nationalities from state-affairs eventually coincided with the UK’s need for extra troops who could fight to extend its Raj. Rai, Magar, Gurung, Tamang and Limbu youths had no alternative but to join the British Army. But all that is history now. The focus now should be on addressing the wrongs done to them in the past.

While successive Nepali governments must shoulder most of the blame, the UK is not blameless either. It has been delaying granting the ex-Gurkhas their rights. The UK is embedding the feeling of hatred in the hearts of Gurkhas. This is indicative of disparaging the dignity of Gurkhas along with the sovereignty of Nepal. Hence this movement can serve as a purgatory for the UK; it has a chance to address the wrongs done to Gurkha soldiers who have shed their blood to uphold Britain’s sovereignty for many decades. This is also a question of humanity, democracy and human rights. The UK has no alternative but to come to terms with the legitimate demands of the Gurkhas.

A sincere and high-level diplomatic approach from both the governments could find a way out. However, neither the UK nor the Nepali government has shown any concern. The longer the issue is delayed, the deeper will be the rifts between ex-Gurkhas and the UK and Nepal governments.