Caste, military, migration : Nepali Gurkha communities in Britain

Pariyar, Mitra (2020) Caste, military, migration : Nepali Gurkha communities in Britain. Ethnicities, 20(3), pp. 608-627. ISSN (print) 1468-7968


The 200-year history of Gurkha service notwithstanding, Gurkha soldiers were forced to retire in their own country. The policy changes of 2004 and 2009 ended the age-old practice and paved the way for tens of thousands of retired soldiers and their dependants to migrate to the UK, many settling in the garrison towns of southern England. One of the fundamental changes to the Nepali diaspora in Britain since the mass arrival of these military migrants has been the extraordinary rise of caste associations, so much so that caste – ethnicised caste –has become a key marker of overseas Gurkha community and identity. This article seeks to understand the extent to which the policies and practices of the Brigade of Gurkhas, including pro-caste recruitment and organisation, have contributed to the rapid reproduction of caste abroad. Informed by Vron Ware’s paradigm of military migration and multiculture, I demonstrate how caste has both strengthened the traditional social bonds and exacerbated inter-group intolerance and discrimination, particularly against the lower castes or Dalits. Using the military lens, my ethnographic and historic analysis adds a new dimension to the largely hidden but controversial problem of caste in the UK and beyond.

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