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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
From hero to heartache
As thousands of retired Gurkhas gather on Parliament Square to demand equal rights, we ask them about their own experiences of serving in the British Army and what followed.

SHAHKAR RAI AND RAJ KUMAR LIMBU

Shahkar Rai and Raj Kumar Limbu

Shahkar Rai and Raj Kumar Limbu both come from Dharan in east Nepal and served together in the same regiment in the Gurkhas until 1993.

They and their families have been granted UK residency and now live in Farnborough.

Both work as security officers for the government to supplement their Gurkha pension of about 130 a month.

Their shared history and long friendship is a reflection of the strong bonds among retired Gurkhas.

They proudly show off four medals for service in the Falklands, two for their time in Brunei and another from the British Army.

They have always been proud to be Gurkhas and find it difficult to feel angry that fellow ex-Gurkhas who retired after 1997 will receive much higher pensions.

"I'm not angry. I feel it's unfair - that's why we came down," says Mr Limbu.

"We were in the army, we worked with the British Army, we feel the same as the British but now we are looking for equal rights."

YAM GURUNG

Yam Gurung

For Yam Gurung, who served 24 years as a Gurkha in the British Army, the problems are more than just financial.

For two years he has not been able to see his three sons.

Born before 1983, they do not qualify for naturalisation and Mr Gurung has become caught up in a lengthy battle with the British embassy in Nepal trying to get them visas.

He has already notched up a 3,000 bill and has been warned legal action may be needed.

"It's too much heartache. We are not against the government or the people, we just want to be treated in a humane way."

"Dogs and cats are more privileged in the UK than we are.

"If our sons can't come here, we will hand our passports back to the Home Office."

RETIRED MAJOR

One Gurkha was posted in Hong Kong, Bosnia, East Timor and Northern Ireland in his 33 years' service before retiring as a major last year.

He now works as a military trainer and sends his 250 monthly pension to his mother back in Nepal.

He said: "I am here to fight, not for the serving people, who are quite well off but for those who fought in World War II. They are the people who Britain should look after."

"We know the British people love us. We know the British soldiers who have fought alongside us do.

"We want the politicians to be behind us. If they can make a decision that will not drain our resources."

He said he did not believe the protest would affect recruitment.

"There will still be people who will look at this army as an honour and a great career move," he added.




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