Europe

Veteran Gurkhas call off 13-day hunger strike over pensions

Former Nepalese Gurkhas in the UK have ended a 13-day hunger strike after the British government agreed to enter talks with the Nepalese Embassy over equal pensions.

The agreement came a day after one of the veterans, 60-year-old Dhan Gurung, from Hampshire, was admitted to hospital with heart problems.

Gurkha soldiers are recruited from Nepal and have served in the British Army for more than 200 years, including during both world wars and in Afghanistan.

They have a reputation for being hard and loyal fighters. But for years, the UK-based Gurkha Equal Rights campaign has cried foul over the fact that those who retired before 1997 are ineligible for a full British Armed Forces state pension.

Today the group formally announced the end of the hunger strike after the Ministry of Defence agreed to hold bilateral talks.

More than 100 people marched through London in support of the group on Wednesday. The previous week Gurung had said his own pension in 1994 had been £20 a month, and he and his family “lived in poverty”.

British actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley, whose father served in the 6th Gurkha Rifles, joined the hunger strikers outside Downing Street on Monday. Ministers, she said, “cannot praise our veterans to the high heavens when it suits them, but ignore them and condemn them to poverty when it doesn’t”.

In a statement on Thursday, the Ministry of Defense said: “Our primary concern is always the health and welfare of our serving personnel and veterans, and this strike was not a course of action we encouraged.

“We look forward to meeting with the group next month alongside the Nepali ambassador to move forward together.”

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