Gurkha soldier reduced to begging seek help from British actressJuly 25th, 2009 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, July 25 (IANS) Durga Bahadur Sunwar fought during World War II as part of the British Army’s Gurkha Brigade and lost his right leg. Today the 78-year-old lives in abject poverty in Nepal’s Lumbini region, having received no compensation or pension from the British. He has been reduced to begging.
“There are scores of other Gurkha veterans who have lost an arm or leg and have no means to support themselves,” says Krishna Bahadur Rai, vice-president of the Gurkha Association of Ex-Servicemen (GAESO) that had been fighting a series of legal battles against the British defence ministry to wrest the same rights for Nepali soldiers as others enjoy in the British Army.
Next week, thousands of former soldiers who are the victims of discrimination by the British government will be narrating their woes to Joanna Lumley, the British actress who became the community’s icon after she lent her voice to their campaign for equal pay and pension as well as the right to live in Britain and made it one of the most high-profile drives in Britain and Nepal.
The 63-year-old actress, who was born in India, became wedded to the Gurkha cause as her late father, Major James Rutherford Lumley, had served with the 6 Gurkha Rifles in the British Army and had once been saved during the war by a soldier from Nepal, Victoria Cross recipient Tul Bahadur Pun.
“She raised her voice for the Gurkhas,” Rai said. “So the veterans here asked her to visit Nepal and see their miserable condition so that she can tell the British people how the soldiers who fought for Britain have been discriminated against.’
It is estimated that nearly 10,000 former soldiers will flock to Kathmandu, Birtamod in Jhapa district and Pokhra town in Kaski where Lumley is scheduled to hold mass meetings.
Arriving in Kathmandu Sunday, she will also meet Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and be felicitated by the chairman of the constituent assembly, Subhash Nembang, at a ceremony organised by the grateful Gurkhas.
Lumley will receive a royal welcome on her arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport, where Rai said nearly 2,000 Gurkha veterans will turn up to receive her.
The actress will leave for Britain Aug 1.
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Tags: abject poverty, baran, british actress, british army, british defence ministry, british people, former soldiers, gaeso, gurkha rifles, gurkhas, james rutherford, joanna lumley, kaski, legal battles, lumbini, madhav, mass meetings, miserable condition, victoria cross, world war ii