April 26, 2018 02:30 AM NPT
By: Rohit Rai
Rohit Rai/Republica Former British Gurkha soldiers providing information about the recently opened British Gurkha Memorial Park in Dharan in this recent picture.
DHARAN, April 26: Dharan has always remained closest Ramesh Rai's heart. Not only because he was born and raised here but also because of the town's very long association with the British Gorkha Army locally known as 'lahure'. However, the 74-year-old ex British Gorkha soldier does not feels the same way nowadays.
“Dharan is no more the same place. Even after retirement, our people are not living here, let alone those who have newly joined the army,” he said. “It feels like an empty place.”
Joining British army stills remains the most common dream of the youths in Dharan. Those who cannot get the opportunity arguably call it their fate. However, after joining the army, 'boys don't come back'.
After the agreement, many of the former Gurkhas staying in Dharan left for the UK. With them gone, you will rarely find any Gurkhas around here nowadays. -Ramesh Rai, Former British Gurkha soldier
“They don't come back!” laments Rai, whose has been longing to see his sons and grandchildren in UK. “Here at home, only me and my wife live,” he looks towards his wife while saying so. Dharan's settlement is extraordinary in the east. It is cozy and full of facilities. The town has no dearth of affluent families.
“No wonder, the credit goes to the 'Lahures” notes Rai. “It is us, our fathers, forefathers, who worked for the army and brought prosperity here. But then when you do not love to come back home after your job is over, it feels little futile,” he added.
Former British Gorkha soldiers always participated in Dharan's development. They always worked closely with the municipality office and introduced facilities and infrastructures. “They not only donated money, but also took leadership for making it an ideal place to live,” Rai said.
No wonder, the roads and markets in Dhran are classy. There are best schools and colleges. Everything else needed for a quality life is easily available here.
“But these facilities have not been able to attract our people for repatriating,” Rai maintains.
Unlike Rai, who laments the 'missing of Lahures' in Dharan, many former Gurkha soldiers like him have left for UK already. Neither former soldiers are considering to stay back, nor those in service are likely to get back. Thus, Dharan is turning 'lahure-less', says Rai.
Another former British Gurkha soldier Sarjent Rai feels the same way. He is also not happy with the trend of lahures settling down in foreign country. “If the trend of lahures settling in foreign countries continues, one day, you will not meet even a single Lahure here in Dharan,” he stated.
Nepalis have been a part of the British army for around two centuries. British Gurkhas fought from the side of the Britain during both world wars. Many Gurkha soldiers disappeared and lost their life during both of the wars. In 2010, Gorkha Soldier Center was established in Dharan. This strengthened the ties between the serving British Gurkhas, retired Gurkhas and Dharan. According to Ramesh Rai, the establishment of the center had touched the locals of Dharan. Since, it always had connection with the British Army the center was considered a positive sign.
He also talked about the Gurkhas' struggle for their rights. Though they would be in the frontline in the battle, they were deprived of equal payment and facilities. Former Gurkhas had launched formal protests against such practices from Dharan. As a result, of the protests, the British government decided to provide permanent resident visa to former Gurkhas. “Then the trend of going back to UK began. Starting from 2008, many have left this soil to live there,” reports Ramesh.
Ramesh finds that the culmination of the protests was unfortunate for Dharan. “After the agreement, many of the former Gurkhas staying in Dharan left for the UK. With them gone, you will rarely find any Gurkhas around here nowadays,” he lamented.
Gajendra Ishwo of the British Gurkha Ex Army Society says that only former Gurkha soldiers who are in their twilight years or have decided to stay here live in Dharan. “Else, all Gurkhas have gone,” he said.
He assumes that there might have been around 10,000 British Gurkha families in Dharan in the past. Seventy percent of them have left for the UK, he added. “Those who are left here are really sad and are in dilemma. It is such an unpleasant atmosphere here,” he said. Old grandfathers and grandmothers still long to see their children back home. But they know that their dream is not going to come true. Ishwo stated that such people's life has become very empty now. “We insist our children to come back. Live their life with dignity and contribute to the country. But we know that is least of their interest. It is a kind of sad situation that Gurkhas are disappearing from Dharan,” he stated.