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Kin battling in Iraq, Indian Gurkhas wait anxiously for news

Dozens of Gurkha families in West Bengal are anxiously waiting to hear from their kin who are with British troops fighting Iraq. Their anxiety is increased by the news of allied forces facing stiff resistance from Iraqi soldiers.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2003 17:50 IST

Dozens of Gurkha families in West Bengal are anxiously waiting to hear from their kin who are with British troops fighting Iraq.

The worried Gurkha families, mostly from the state's hill district of Darjeeling, say information on their relatives has stopped coming in now.

"We are worried for our cousin Amol Rai, who last called three months ago to tell us he was going to Kuwait because there could be a war with Iraq," says C L Rai, one such harried Gurkha relative from Kurseong sub-division of Darjeeling.

Most of the British Gurkha soldiers, known for their fierce loyalty and doughtiness, serve the British army's transport, signal and engineering divisions, but a small number are inducted as infantrymen and commandos as well. About 3,500 Gurkhas serve in the British army.

The anxiety of the soldiers' relatives has increased on hearing that coalition forces are facing stiff resistance from Iraqi soldiers in urban pockets.

Some Gurkha ex-servicemen are trying to make the troubled relatives understand that information about soldiers engaged in battlefields is difficult to get.

"It is almost impossible to get them on phone from where they are in the desert," says retired British serviceman Anod Thapa.

Another ex-serviceman, Suman Tamang, who too has a cousin fighting in Iraq for the coalition forces, says their only source of information now is television and newspapers. "We are glued to TV and can only hope the war gets over soon."

Television news, however, is also of little help to these people because most don't know which division of the army their relatives are with.

Many of the Gurkha families, who also have their kith and kin serving Indian armed forces, know that in war situations, the only time information comes about a soldier through an official channel is when the worst has happened.

"So we don't want any official word. We are praying our relatives call up themselves to let us know they are doing fine," says Baudi Man Subba, another retired soldier.

Much before the attack on Iraq began last week, all annual leaves of British soldiers were cancelled and Gurkha soldiers vacationing in Darjeeling and Nepal had to return immediately to report for duty.

First Published: Mar 26, 2003 16:37 IST