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Gurkhas take protest to Parliament

world Updated: Mar 20, 2008 02:37 IST
Vijay Dutt

Fighting for decades for equal treatment with the British soldiers, a huge number of retired Gurkha soldiers started gathering early Wednesday morning outside Parliament to influence the MPs for getting them justice and fair treatment. Praised the world over as the ‘bravest of the brave’, Gurkhas demand the right to stay in Britain and be paid army pensions at par with other British soldiers.

Their association officials say that battling for Britain for over 200 years, Gurkhas have served as part of the British army during the two world wars. They suffered 43,000 casualties and won 26 Victoria Crosses. Thousands of them have fought in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Falklands, as well as had been guarding the protectorate of Hong Kong before its independence.

But they are now in a pitiable situation. Under British laws, Gurkhas who retired after 1997 can automatically stay in Britain but those who retired earlier must either leave Britain or apply to stay. And even when they have been allowed to stay, their children in British universities have to pay hefty international fees.

The problems affect 500 of the 3,000 soldiers currently serving in the Brigade of Gurkhas in Britain.