Associated with the unification of Nepal under the ‘Gorkha’ kingdom, and popularly projected in both national myth and globalized tourist imagery, the ‘Gurkhas’ in the British army have been an important national symbol. The history of the ‘Gurkhas’ is multifaceted and also includes chapters about cheap and reliable military labour and racial discrimination in the British army; in spite of this, a limited number of ‘Gurkhas’ have over time contributed considerably to the economic status of their families and hometowns in Nepal. The UCPN(Maoist) leadership has often called for an end to the institution, linking it to mercenary activity due to the involvement of ‘Gurkha’ regiments in contested wars such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, a report submitted by an all-party parliamentary committee recommended that recruitment in Nepal to ‘Gurkha’ regiments abroad should be stopped. In this way, the ‘symbolic value’ of the ‘Gurkha’ tradition being loaded with notions of bravery and pride has been challenged by competing notions of (post)colonialism and mercenary practice. Hence, the discussion about the ‘Gurkha’ tradition is also a debate about national identities in the changing Nepal. This debate is further complicated by the substantial economic returns to Nepal that are generated by ‘Gurkhas’. This paper explores the symbolic changes of the ‘Gurkha’ tradition as these are projected in media originating both within and outside Nepal and available on the Internet. The contested media constructions of the ‘Gurkhas’ are discussed in relation to post-conflict identity politics in Nepal.
Nepali Diaspora in the Globalised Era, 2015, p. 55-75