Gurkha veterans call off hunger strike after UK agrees to negotiate pensions

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

The deal came a day after one of the veterans, Dhan Gurung, 60, of 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 the world wars and in Afghanistan.

They have a reputation for being tough and loyal fighters. But for years, the UK-based Gurkha Equal Rights campaign has lamented the fact that those who retired before 1997 are not eligible for a full state pension from the British Armed Forces.

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

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

British actress and activist Joanna Lumley, whose father served in the 6th Gurkha Rifle, joined hunger strikers outside Downing Street on Monday. Ministers, he said, “cannot praise our veterans for heights when it suits them, but ignore them and condemn them to poverty when it does not suit them.”

In a statement Thursday, the Defense Ministry said: “Our primary concern is always the health and well-being of our service personnel and veterans, and this strike was not a course of action that we encouraged.

“We hope to meet the group next month together with the Nepalese ambassador to move forward together.”


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