"Ayo Gurkhali!" – the shameful irony

[Updated 18:05, 29/04/09 – Gordon Brown (and, indirectly, the policy-owning Home Office) has been defeated in a Commons vote on the Gurkha issue. 28 Labour MPs are understood to have rebelled explicitly, including one who resigned his post as a parliamentary private secretary so as to be able to vote against the Government. A number more abstained as an indirect way of seeing the proposals founder.]

Our Government continues to wriggle and nitpick in a way which goes beyond penny-pinching, and loiters somewhere between callous and despicable.

One might wonder why the proud Nepalis come, generation after generation, to serve and die for our country – remote, indifferent and ungrateful as it must so often seem – but they do, and our armed forces are only too happy to have them. They have served in the British Army for almost 200 years, and with such bravery and distinction that the Victoria Cross has been awarded to Gurkha Regiments 26 times.

Here is one example of such an action, though as you can see here, many others would serve to illustrate the point just as well:

Ninthoukhong, Burma June 1944

… B Company, 7th Gurkha Rifles, was ordered to counter-attack and restore the situation. Shortly after passing the starting line it came under heavy enemy medium machine-gun and tank machine-gun fire at point blank range, which covered all lines of approach. Rifleman Ganju Lama, the No.1 of the PIAT gun, on his own initiative, with great coolness and complete disregard for his own safety, crawled forward and engaged the tanks single handed. In spite of a broken left wrist and two other wounds, one in his right hand and one in his leg, caused by withering cross fire concentrated upon him, Rifleman Ganju Lama succeeded in bringing his gun into action within thirty yards of the enemy tanks and knocked out first one and then another, the third tank being destroyed by an anti-tank gun. In spite of his serous wounds, he then moved forward and engaged with grenades the tank crews, who now attempted to escape. Not until he hand killed them all, thus enabling his company to push forward, did he allow himself to be taken back to the Regimental Aid Post to have his wounds dressed…….

Gurkhas continue to serve, and die, alongside other British and Commonwealth forces in Afghanistan, and at a time when the Government is prepared to bail out reckless banks and stand by while those bail-outs subsidise collossal pension payouts, its niggardliness in the matter of Gurkhas’ pensions and UK residence entitlements is simply breathtaking.

One of the things a Gurkha’s opponent probably least wants to hear is their battle-cry “Ayo Gurkhali!”. It means “the Gurkhas are coming!”. Our country has been profiting from the arrival of the Gurkhas for almost 200 years. That our Government should respond with such discriminatory meanness shames us all.

There is an online petition here on the Gurkha Justice Campaign site.