BLACK LIVES MATTER (BLM) – A GURKHA PERSPECTIVE
Many like me who have served in the Brigade will be looking on with bewilderment at the BLM Movement sweeping across much of the western world. Its genesis lay not just in the specific of the murder of George Floyd by a white policeman in Minnesota, but more generally in the long-standing racial tensions that are deeply embedded in United States society. It has now spread to this country.
The Movement on both sides of the Atlantic has moved quickly to focus on slavery and its legacy as the cause of racial tension. In America memories of the Civil War have provided a lightning rod for further unrest and dissent. In this country the toppling of Colston and associated demonstrations are indicative of our troubled history of racial integration. But is at this juncture that we diverge from the United States to move the debate on from slavery to colonialism, and in doing so embrace a wider BAME cohort, to challenge the means that made Britain “Great”. Government and the national conscience seem all too ready to pursue appeasement to those who demand that Rhodes – and others – should fall, that history should be at best re-written, or at least presented in a different way.
Where I wonder does this all leave the Brigade of Gurkhas and our 205 years of history? There are probably four issues:
– First, will some choose to view the Gurkha soldier and his history as an instrument of colonialism and oppression? To many the Indian Mutiny will forever be the first war of Indian independence, put down by the then Indian Army with the Gurkha at the forefront.
– Second, will disaffected ex-Gurkhas seek to align themselves with the BLM Movement in order to support their quest for equal pensions and recompense for other grievances? A renewed programme of agitation with the Movement as the backcloth may draw more sympathy than previous campaigns.
– Third, in the modern era is it appropriate that the Brigade and its formed units remain a separate entity from the wider Army? On grounds of military capability, of course it should. But are wider, social, arguments are now being introduced to drive change.
– Fourth, should we re-think how we present our heritage, specifically at the Gurkha Museum, to ensure it reflects the mood of the times? This is not so much a re-write of history, more a slight shift in emphasis.
Some food for thought. We live in interesting times.