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Nepal stages symbolic funeral rites for fallen Gurkhas
by Staff Writers
Kathmandu (AFP) Nov 21, 2012


Veterans of Britain's Gurkha brigade lit candles and burned incense on Wednesday to mark the deaths of 60,000 Nepalese soldiers who they say have been forgotten by the country they fought for.

Gurkhas who served in the British Army and died in battle in two world wars and other conflicts across the globe are being honoured in three days of ceremonies at Syangja district in western Nepal.

Padam Bhadur Gurung, president of the Gurkha Army Ex-servicemen's Organisation, said that Britain was reluctant to publicise the huge sacrifice that Gurkhas had made.

Gurkhas had played a crucial part in "saving Britain and the whole world from most dangerous dictators of history like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini", he said.

Led by British actress Joanna Lumley, a 2009 campaign won Gurkhas who had retired before 1997 with at least four years' service the right to settle permanently in Britain.

Thousands of veterans in Nepal are taking part in three days of ceremonies which started on Tuesday with local television stars Madan Krishna Shrestha and Hari Bansha Acharya laying a wreath at a Gurkha statue.

The veterans will later lay the foundation stone for a permanent Gurkha monument in Syangja.

Steep cuts to the 3,000-strong unit, which has been part of the British army for nearly two centuries, saw more than 700 jobs axed this year.

About 200,000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in World War I and World War II, taking pride in a reputation for ferocity and bravery and known for their distinctive curved kukri knives.

"They were not properly cremated as per the cultures, rituals and customary practices. Their souls are still vanishing in far-off lands," said Gurung.

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