Hundreds march on parliament demanding rights for Gurkhas
Hundreds of demonstrators marched at Westminster, gathering outside the Ministry of Defence and the House of Parliament calling for equal citizenship and pensions rights for former Gurkhas.
The protest follows David Cameron’s decision to cancel the meeting with the Gurkhas where they had expected to deliver a petition against unfair treatment by the UK government.
Nabina Gurung, a representative from Enough is Enough – the infant campaign group based in Hounslow – explained that the campaigners were supposed to have a short meeting with the prime minister to discuss the rights of the Gurkhas, who have been denied the right to full pensions and housing support, but were instead informed of the cancellation a fortnight ago.
She said: “We did hand over a petition to his secretary. Although we know that there are greater problems, the problems we are facing are too much to bear. So I hope he reads the petition.”
Although the march was peaceful, the fury among the protestors was apparent with several British people voicing their support among the demonstrators. Sadia Awan from London, one of the sympathetic British supporters marching in solidarity, said: “They deserve to be part of this country, just as we are. I believe in their cause and I think just as my family fought to be in this country, so should they be allowed to, because they actually did more.”
The Gurkhas, who have been part of the British Army for about 200 years, won a legal battle led by actress Joanna Lumley in 2009 that allowed the Nepalese veterans to settle in the UK if they had retired before 1997 with at least four years of service.
Despite a milestone victory, the Gurkhas continued to oppose the government’s plan to block the soldiers who retired before July 2007 to join the UK armed forces pension scheme. The retired soldiers claim they only received a third of the pension paid to UK-based soldiers.
Nabina Gurung stated: “When Joanna Lumley helped this campaign forward, the Gurkhas were given a settlement grant and we were pretty happy with it, but we didn’t know the consequences after getting the settlement.”
“The veterans have come to this country and are suffering a lot. The government is just blindfolded; they’re not willing to treat us as equal British soldiers. We want equal rights.”