Gurkha veterans call off hunger strike after UK government agrees talks

Britain's government has said it will discuss the veterans' longstanding grievances over pension rights

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

Troops with a reputation for fierce fighting, thousands of Gurkhas have served in the British army.

Gurkhas typically received a fraction of the pension given to British-born soldiers.

That imbalance has been resolved, but any soldier who left the British Army before 1997 still receives a vastly reduced pension stipend.

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

"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.

There around 2,700 currently enlisted in Britain's armed forces.

Updated: August 19th 2021, 7:17 PM
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