As member of the library committee in the borough of St Pancras in the early 1940s, V K Krishna Menon, the enigmatic diplomat, statesman and politician, was keen that there should be “as many libraries as there are pubs” in the borough.
This and other aspects of the life of Menon (1896-1974) were mentioned as part of tributes on his 120th birth anniversary at the Nehru Centre on Tuesday night. Menon was elected councillor of the borough of St Pancras in 1934 and remained a councillor for 14 years.
Menon is most known for his controversial role as the defence minister during the 1962 India-China war, but speakers recalled his work in London for India’s freedom, including his role as secretary of the India League.
Former home secretary Peter Lloyd said without Menon, the Non-Aligned Movement would not have crystallised as a moral force. Criticism for his role in the India-China war was “hard on him…not the kind of payback he would be looking for.”
“We remember him in his different roles – a freedom fighter, a scholar, a politician, the first Indian elected councillor in the UK, first high commissioner to the UK and the first ambassador to the United Nations,” India’s deputy high commissioner Virander Paul said.
Speakers included those who had interacted with him during his time in England, such as Chhaya Ray, whose father was the personal physician of Menon in London; and film historian Lalit Mohan Joshi and Cyriac Maprayil of the VK Krishna Menon Institute.