Gurkhas END hunger strike after 13 days as Government agrees to enter talks over equal pensions

Former British Ghurka servicemen have ended a 13-day hunger strike after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace finally agreed to enter talks with the Nepalese Embassy over equal pensions for veterans.

The group had not eaten for almost a fortnight, with one 60-year-old protester with diabetes admitted to hospital with heart problems in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The hunger strikers were part of a group of protesters who had gathered outside Downing Street calling for equal pensions for Gurkhas who retired before 1997 and are not eligible for a full UK armed forces pension. 

A spokesman for the group said Dhan Gurung, from Basingstoke, had less than a week before his condition became really serious. But this afternoon, the Ministry of Defence announced it would open talks with the Nepalese Embassy about the matter. 

The Gurkha men, recruited from Nepal, have a reputation as hard and loyal fighters, and are known for the trademark curved kukri blades they carry sheathed on their belts.

Around 200,000 fought in both world wars, also serving in places such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falklands, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who served from 1948 to 2007 were members of the Gurkha Pension Scheme until the differences between Gurkhas’ terms and conditions of service and those of their British counterparts were removed.

Serving Gurkhas, and those with service on or after July 1, 1997, could then opt to transfer into the Armed Forces Pension Scheme.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: ‘We are happy the Satyagraha (non-violent resistance) group have agreed to break their fast. 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.’

Dhan Gurung has his blood pressure checked by a medic as he continues a hunger strike during a demonstration for equal pensions outside Downing Street on August 18, 2021

Dhan Gurung has his blood pressure checked by a medic as he continues a hunger strike during a demonstration for equal pensions outside Downing Street on August 18, 2021

Dhan Gurung has his blood pressure checked by a medic as he continues a hunger strike during a demonstration for equal pensions outside Downing Street on August 18, 2021

Former British Gurkha soldiers and their families protest outside parliament in London

Former British Gurkha soldiers and their families protest outside parliament in London

Former British Gurkha soldiers and their families protest outside parliament in London

Dhan Gurung on day 12 of a hunger strike opposite Downing Street in London

Dhan Gurung on day 12 of a hunger strike opposite Downing Street in London

Dhan Gurung on day 12 of a hunger strike opposite Downing Street in London

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives at the Prime Minister's official residence

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives at the Prime Minister's official residence

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives at the Prime Minister’s official residence

She added: ‘We look forward to meeting with the group next month alongside the Nepali Ambassador to move forward together.’

The Gurkha Equal Rights campaign group tweeted on Thursday afternoon: ‘BREAKING NEWS ! Government has a struck a deal with the Nepal Embassy for a government to government dialogue.

’13 days of fast unto death, the hunger strike has now been called off ! Thank you everyone for your support and love!’

Speaking previously about the protest, Mr Gurung – was taken to hospital with heart problems shortly after 1.30am on Wednesday before being discharged – said: ‘We will keep coming back here, we want to continue our hunger (strike) until death. We don’t care about sacrificing our life.’ 

Laxmi Ghising, speaking on behalf of the group, said Mr Gurung – who has problems with diabetes – was taken to hospital yesterday after his body turned cold and his blood pressure became too high.

Dhan Gurung receives a shoulder massage as he continues a hunger strike during a demonstration for equal pensions outside Downing Street on August 18, 2021

Dhan Gurung receives a shoulder massage as he continues a hunger strike during a demonstration for equal pensions outside Downing Street on August 18, 2021

Dhan Gurung receives a shoulder massage as he continues a hunger strike during a demonstration for equal pensions outside Downing Street on August 18, 2021

Pushpa Rana Ghale has a foot massage as she continues a hunger strike

Pushpa Rana Ghale has a foot massage as she continues a hunger strike

Pushpa Rana Ghale has a foot massage as she continues a hunger strike

Former British Gurkha soldiers and their families protest outside parliament in London

Former British Gurkha soldiers and their families protest outside parliament in London

Former British Gurkha soldiers and their families protest outside parliament in London

Support our Gurkhas protester Gyanraj Rai gestures as he continues a hunger strike during a demonstration for equal pensions

Support our Gurkhas protester Gyanraj Rai gestures as he continues a hunger strike during a demonstration for equal pensions

Support our Gurkhas protester Gyanraj Rai gestures as he continues a hunger strike during a demonstration for equal pensions

Mr Ghising said: ‘He’s comfortable now, if he had refused to go to hospital there would have been very bad consequences- he might have collapsed. Fortunately he agreed to go to hospital for the treatment and once he came back he’s now okay, but he’s not comfortable to talk.’

He went on to say that Mr Gurung continues to feel cold and tired, while his tongue has become inflamed. However, he said the veteran would remain in his wheelchair opposite Downing Street without eating until the Government agrees to address the Gurkhas’ issues.

Asked how long it will be before his health situation becomes serious, Mr Ghising added: ‘Maybe less than a week. All the general public, all our campaigners are panicking – we are really rushed.

‘Come on Government, come on, we just need your black and white letter saying the date and time for the dialogue meeting. Once we receive that letter we will immediately cease this hunger strike.’

Link hienalouca.com

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