Gorkhas hand over medals to British government

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London, Mar 19 (UNI) Dozens of Gorkha soldiers here have handed back their medals as part of a campaign for justice and fair treatment.

Gorkhas today gathered outside the Parliament to demand the right to stay in Britain and be paid Army pensions at par with other British soldiers, protesting against what they call their unfair treatment by the British Army.

Under the British laws, Gorkhas who retired after 1997 can automatically stay in Britain but those who retired earlier must either leave Britain or apply to stay.

Even when they have been allowed to stay, their children in British Universities were treated as foreign students and have to pay hefty international fees of up to 13,000 pounds a year.

In a symbolic gesture around 100 of them handed in their medals to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, an MP campaigning on their behalf.

Mr Clegg in turn was expected to hand over the medals to the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The issue was expected to figure in Parliament, following a move in the House of Lords where a bill was initiated yesterday to try and address the problem.

Gorkha soldiers who retired after July 1997 - when Hong Kong, the former Gurkha base, was handed over to China - received the same pension as others in the British Army. But those who retired before that date were paid only a sixth of the amount received by a British soldier.

The problems were said to affect around 500 of the 3,000 soldiers currently serving in the Brigade of Gorkhas, most of whom were based in Britain.

Chhatra Rai, general secretary of the British Gorkha Welfare Society said, ''Every time the Ministry of Defence makes an announcement over changes, it says that Gorkhas are now being treated equally. But that is not the case when you look into it.

Until they come clean, we will be knocking on the door. It's unfair.'' Retired Gorkha Major Dhanbar Ghale said the men were only asking to be treated fairly. ''Many face been thrown out of the country they fought for - is that really fair,'' he questioned.

Mr Clegg spoke at the protest in Parliament Square ahead of the Prime Minister's questions where he raised the issue.

''The treatment of these brave men is a national disgrace, and the Government should be ashamed,'' he added.

UNI XC PD BST2007

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