‘We are also Gurkhas’: Changes in Gurkha Recruitment Policy and the Inclusion Discourse in Nepal
Historically, the recruitment policies of the British Army had been highly non-inclusive to the extent that they had been biased towards certain ethnic groups within Nepal. Gurungs, Magars, Rais and Limbus, which the British had categorised as “martial”, have had a dominant position within the recruitment sector. Their dominance as British Gurkhas continues to this day as they make-up around eighty percent of the total new recruits each year. However, in recent years, the British Army have adopted a policy of ‘free, fair, and transparent’ recruitment, claiming to have moved away from the colonial classifications and preferences for certain kinds of recruits. This has led to the increase in the number of young men from various other ethnic groups to take up foreign military recruitment. A major claim by these groups was the need for inclusion and representation of these groups in the recruitment sector, which derived from the discourse of inclusion prevalent within Nepal.
A key actor instrumental in propagating this new policy were the training centres, which acted as ‘intermediaries’ in the recruitment process. With the decrease in recruitment intake and high competition among the training centres to attract potential trainees, some of the centres employed a strategy to expand their business potential. They organised marketing campaigns to attract new and potential trainees. They took cues from the inclusive debates within Nepal and the policy adopted by the British Army to assist with their cause. In doing so, they reached out to places that were historically not categorised as the heartlands of recruitment, and focused on groups that were historically not classified to become Gurkha soldiers. In this paper, I take the case of one of the training institutions in Pokhara, and the data presented here is from 11 months of fieldwork in Pokhara and Charikot between 2013 -15.