V.K. Krishna Menon’s kin traced for South African award

October 25th, 2008 - 5:08 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 25 (IANS) It took around six months for both the Indian and South African governments to find the immediate kin of India’s first defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon to confer an international honour on him posthumously.Menon’s grand nephew, Hariram Shastri, will receive the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in silver - for “excellent contribution to the fight against colonialism and the apartheid system in South Africa” - at a function in Pretoria Oct 28.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe would confer the honour, which is the country’s second highest, a leading Malayalam daily reported here.

The honour was supposed to be conferred by the then president Thabo Mbeki in April 2008. But the South African government postponed the award function because they could not trace the immediate kin of Menon, who was unmarried.

A spokesperson for the Chancellor of the Orders, Frank Chikane, had said in April that despite every effort, the surviving family member had not yet been traced.

The office of the Indian High Commissioner in South Africa, Rajiv Bhatia, was asked to accept the award, but as the family had not yet been contacted, it would not be right for the Indian government representative to accept it.

“This is a posthumous award to an individual Indian citizen, not to the government of India, and it is only right that the family first be contacted,” a spokesperson for the high commission had said.

“I am very happy to accept the award in the name of my grand uncle. When we saw the news reports that South African award Krishna Menon would be delayed, we contacted the South African government,” Shastri, a Delhi-based businessman, told the Malayala Manorama daily.

Menon, who was born in a powerful Vengalil family at Panniyankara in Kozhikode, Kerala, had only one sister - V.K. Janaki. Shastri is the son of Janaki’s elder daughter V.A. Madhavi Shastri.

Like his grand uncle, Shastri is also unmarried. Shastri’s sister Janaki Ram, who is settled in the US, will attend the award function in Pretoria.

Announcing the award in April, Essop Pahad, then minister in the South African presidency, said Menon, who founded the India League in the thirties, had assisted the struggle for South Africa’s liberation for two decades. His sustained efforts gave momentum to the anti-apartheid struggle.

“Menon, as chairman of the delegation of India to the UN General Assembly from 1953 to 1962, had a keen understanding of the situation in South Africa. He encouraged the leaders of the South African Indian community to build the unity of the Indian community with the African people in their fight against racist domination,” said a book edited by E.S. Reddy in 1992.

“Menon made a significant contribution to the development of international solidarity with the South African liberation movement,” the book added.

Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Ramesh Chandra, a former UN diplomat, are the other Indians who have won the O.R. Tambo award earlier.

Krishna Menon had delivered an unprecedented eight-hour speech at the UN Security Council Jan 23, 1957, defending India’s stand on Kashmir. The speech is the longest ever delivered in the UN to date.

Menon’s father Komath Krishna Kurup was a successful lawyer in Kerala and one of the state’s richest men at the time.

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