Gurkha veterans call off hunger strike as UK govt agrees talks

By: AFP      Published: 12:18 AM, 20 Aug, 2021
Gurkha veterans call off hunger strike as UK govt agrees talks

Nepalese Gurkha military veterans on Thursday ended their "fast until death" after the British government agreed to discuss their long-standing grievances over pension rights.

Troops with a reputation for fierce fighting, thousands of Gurkhas have served in the British army but did not enjoy the same pay and conditions as British soldiers until 2007.

Now "Government has a struck a deal with the Nepal Embassy for a government-to-government dialogue," wrote the "Gurkha Equal Rights" group on its Twitter account.

"The hunger strike has now been called off! Thank you everyone for your support and love."

The Ministry of Defence said it was "happy" the group had agreed to end the strike and that it looked forward "to meeting with the group next month alongside the Nepali Ambassador to move forward together."

The strikers camped under makeshift shelters opposite Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Downing Street office for 13 days, taking no food.

One protester, Dhan Gurung, was taken to hospital on Wednesday after feeling unwell. His wife, Dev Kumari Gurung, dismissed reports he had a heart attack.

He had been feeling weak and had high blood pressure but was determined to carry on, she told AFP.

Surrounded by flowers and candles left by supporters, the demonstrators wanted the government to resolve their complaints about alleged discrimination and inequalities.

The Gurkhas have earned a reputation for fierce fighting, loyalty and bravery since they first served as part of the Indian army in British-ruled India in 1815.

Around 200,000 have fought alongside British troops in both world wars, as well as the conflicts in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those who served before 1997 receive only a fraction of their British counterparts' salary, as it was assumed they would return to Nepal after leaving the army, where the cost of living is significantly lower.

They previously lost a legal challenge against the situation, and say it has left some 25,000 older Nepalese veterans out of pocket.