Gurkhas

A stab in the back for the Gurkhas

The Ministry of Defence’s new wave of cuts will make more than one in ten Gurkha soldiers redundant, most likely from the older generation.

Photo (Jody-Lan Castle) : Here the Mayor of Folkestone, Susan Wallace, says Namaste to members of the Nepalese Community.Over 45,000 Gurkhas have died in battle to date in the name of Great Britain. They fought bravely alongside British troops in conflicts such as Kosovo, the Falklands, Afghanistan and the World Wars. But now, only 3 years after winning the Gurkha Justice Campaign, the Gurkhas are set to bear the brunt of the Ministry of Defence’s second round of cuts. The announcement came on Tuesday that the British Armed Forces will shed an extra 2,900 soldiers, including 400 Gurkhas, in its attempt to save £4.7billion.

Former Councillor of Folkestone in Kent, Dhan Gurung, has accused the Ministry of Defence of discrimination due to the disproportionate number of Gurkhas to be axed compared to their British counterparts. But according to Defence Minister Philip Hammond, the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) is necessary to clean up after the preceding Labour government’s overzealous defence spending.

The Defence Minister also commented that the review is likely to affect mostly Gurkhas who have already served for 6 years or more. The move also seems to intentionally target the older Gurkhas. The changes in the maximum years of service for Gurkhas, from 15 years to 22, mean that Gurkhas will remain in service until much older ages. So ironically, it is those who have served this country the longest that will be made redundant.

Though many Gurkhas currently fear for the future of their careers, there are attempts at keeping UK-Nepal relations strong on a local and national level. Nepalese Artist Ajaya Deshar is holding his exhibition In Search of Peace in Folkestone, Kent, home to over 350 Nepalese families and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. The exhibition’s opening ceremony brought the local and Nepalese communities together to share in the Nepalese culture.

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Racial relations in Folkestone, Kent

Amid all this discussion about racism in the UK, here is a look at how Folkestone in Kent is doing in terms of its racial relations.

Folkestone is a multicultural town, including large groups of Nepalese, Bangladeshi and Eastern European people.

These graphs show that the number of White British people has gradually declined over the past 10 years, and the number of ethnic minorities has risen.

The Nepalese Community is probably the most prominent ethnic group in Folkestone. In 1997, when the Gurkhas’ base was moved from Hong Kong to the UK, Folkestone became home to the Royal Gurkha Rifles. Now, over 350 Nepalese families live there. Here’s Susan Wallace, the Mayor of Folkestone, telling us about the Gurkhas.
In January 2011, an Afghan teenager was stabbed and killed by another Afghan boy. The cause was said to be a tribal feud. This incident polarised the public in Folkestone, and racial relations became tense. The newspapers at the time said that some parts of Folkestone were becoming ghettos.This is Barbara Witham, Events Organiser for Folkestone Town Centre Management and one of those responsible for Folkestone Multicultural Festival, commenting on the stabbing of an Afghan teenager in Folkestone last year.As the Economy worsens and unemployment stays high, the relations between ethnic groups in Folkestone will be strained. Hopefully, Folkestone will remain a peaceful seaside town.For a more detailed report, including public opinion and an interview with Bijay Hitan from the Nepalese Community of Folkestone, listen to this.