Mass funeral for 60 000 UK Gurkha soldiers

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AFP

Soldiers from A Company of the 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles and the Afghan National Army patrol near Nahr e Saraj village, in Helmand on June 23, 2010.

Syangja, Nepal -

The Gurkha Army Ex-servicemen's Organisation on Tuesday began holding funeral rites for Nepalese soldiers who died fighting for Britain, the organisers said.

The three-day ceremony was for the 60 000 Gurkhas who died serving in the British Army in various conflicts including both world wars.

“We are organising this event to pray for the peaceful departure of the souls who lost their lives fighting in different battles under the British Empire,” said former soldier Rajesh Kulung.

The organisation said members of at least 14 different hill castes who fought in the British Army were being honoured at Syangja district in western Nepal, home to most of the deceased soldiers.

“Britain has neither publicised any data of Gurkha casualties nor has the Nepalese government shown any interest in the whereabouts” of the soldiers, the organisation said.

It urged the governments to respond to the plight of the Gurkhas.

Gurkhas are Nepali soldiers who first joined the British East India Company Army in 1851 and later served in the British and the Indian armies. Known for their use of the curved traditional Nepali knife called the kukri, the Gurkhas mostly served in the infantry.

More than 200 000 Gurkhas fought for the British in the two world wars. They have also served in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falklands and Kosovo. More recently, they have been stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They have been petitioning the British government for rights on par with those of other British soldiers. In 2009, retired Gurkhas won the right to live in Britain. But they are still fighting for pensions and pay equal to the rest of the British Army. - Sapa-dpa


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