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Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon (1897 - 1974)

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon (1897 - 1974) Awarded for:
Excellent contribution to the fight against colonialism and the apartheid system in South Africa.

Profile of Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon

Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon was an Indian nationalist and politician born in 1897 at Panniyankara in Calicut, Kerala. Menon did his primary education in Tellicherry, after which he completed his BA degree at Presidency College, Chennai.

While in college, he started taking an active interest in the national movement and subsequently became attracted to theosophy.

In England, he worked hard for Indian independence as a journalist and secretary of the India League, and became associated with fellow Indian nationalist leader Jawaharlal Nehru. He was admitted to the English bar in 1934, and was elected borough councillor of St. Pancras, London, shortly after he had joined the Labour Party.

In 1947, after India gained independence, Menon was appointed high commissioner to the United Kingdom. He remained in this post until 1952. Worldly and well vested in international affairs, he led an Indian delegation to the United Nations (UN) between 1952 and 1962.

Menon had a keen understanding of the situation in South Africa, having been in close contact since the 1930s with Dr Yusuf Dadoo and other leaders of the South African Indian community. He encouraged them to build the unity of the Indian community with the African people in the common struggle against racist domination and made a significant contribution to the development of international solidarity with the South African liberation movement.

When the Indian Congress launched the passive resistance campaign in 1946, as head of the India League in London, he established a South Africa committee to publicise the struggles of the Indians as well as the African majority. He visited New York later that year as a member of the Indian delegation to the first session of the UN General Assembly. A joint delegation of the African National Congress and the Indian Passive Resistance Council arrived in New York to seek support. Menon spoke at a public meeting organised for them by the Council on African Affairs led by Mr Paul Robeson.

Later, as high commissioner for India in London, he was able to help the South African freedom movement stay in contact with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian Government.

His statements in the UN General Assembly, after he returned as head of the Indian delegation, reflected his intimate knowledge of the subject, his intense disdain for apartheid and his passionate support for the freedom movement.

In relation to the apartheid experiences of millions of oppressed South Africans, he declared on 15 November 1956:

“My government and my people are not without hope that the vast population of 10 million people, to all of whom that country belongs … will one day, however hard the road, however great the obstacle and however severe the prejudices, break the bonds that now bind them and become citizens of a civilised humanity. We hope that we shall be able to establish with them unbreakable bonds of friendship and fraternity.”

Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon was a gallant soldier for human freedom. His unrelenting struggles for a free, non-racial, non-sexist, just and democratic South Africa through the UN exerted pressure on the apartheid state and ensured that apartheid remained on the international radar screen.

Menon died on 6 October 1974 in New Delhi.