(extract from nepalnews.com)

Chairman of the British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS), Major (Retd.) Tikendra Dal Dewan, has said the fight for equal pension which his organisation has taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is the last battle for the Gurkhas. Talking to Everest Times weekly published from the UK, Major Dewan said BGWS had decided to knock the doors of the Strasbourg-based court after the appeals filed by them were rejected by the British courts.

A major Gurkha organisation based in the UK, the BGWS has been arguing that the pension and benefits awarded to Gurkha soldiers who retired prior to 1st July 1997 is discriminatory vis a vis their British colleagues. Gurkhas have sacrificed their lives defending the British Crown and people. But our pension is nearly one-third of that drawn by our British comrades. Thats gross injustice, he said.

Responding to a query regarding the pathetic situation of Gurkha veterans, who have arrived in the UK over the last one year, Major Dewan said it was the duty of the British government to take full responsibility of elderly Gurkhas after awarding them settlement rights. He, however, said many Gurkha veterans would choose to stay back or return to Nepal if they were given a pension equal to that of their British colleagues.

Gurkha veterans will have an opportunity to spend quality time with their families. UK would save money and Nepal will benefit from remittance. Hence, equal pension will create a win-win situation for all sides, he added.

He also urged the entire Gurkha community and friends of Gurkhas to support their fight for equal pension. He refuted reports that the fight being carried out by the Gurkhas would jeopardise the future of the Brigade of Gurkhas in the British Army. There is no substance behind such allegations, he said.

When asked how optimistic he was regarding the case at the ECHR, Major Dewan said he was pretty optimistic that the Court will deliver its verdict in their favour. The 1947 Tri-Partite Agreement (TPA) among the UK, India and Nepal has never treated Gurkhas as mercenaries. We have got strong basis to prove that there have been discrimination against us, said Dewan adding, Even from moral point of view, we do have an upper ground as we have taken the British government all the way to the British court.

The ECHR is expected to start hearing on the Gurkha case sometime next year. The BGWS says the case will affect over 30,000 Gurkha veterans who retired from the British Army prior to 1997.nepalnews.com