Biography of ‘Krishnan Menon’
Vengalil Krishnan (V.K.) Menon was an Indian nationalist and politician. Menon was born at Panniyankara in Calicut, Kerala, into the powerful Vengalil family of South India. He was the grandson of the Raja of Kartanad and the first son of a successful lawyer of the Calicut bar, Komath Krishna Kurup, one of Kerala’s richest men at the time. Menon had his early education in Tellicherry and he took his B.A. degree from Presidency College, Chennai. While in college, he started taking an active interest in the national movement. While studying in the Law College of Madras, he became involved in Theosophy and actively associated with Annie Besant and the Home Rule Movement.
He was a leading member of the ‘Brothers of Service’, founded by Annie Besant who spotted his gifts and helped him travel to England in 1924. In London, Menon pursued further education at the London School of Economics and University College London, and at the same time, he became a passionate proponent of India’s freedom. In England, he worked hard for Indian independence as a journalist and secretary (1929-1947) of the India League, and became associated with fellow Indian nationalist leader Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1934 he was admitted to the English bar, and after joining the Labour Party he was elected borough councillor of St. Pancras, London. St. Pancras later conferred on him the Freedom of the Borough, the only other person so honoured being Bernard Shaw.
In 1932 he inspired a fact finding delegation headed by Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson to visit India. Menon served as its Secretary and edited its report entitled ‘conditions in India’. During the thirties he founded with Allen Lane the Penguin and Pelican pa- per back books. He worked as an editor for Bodley Head, Penguin and Pelican Books, and the Twentieth Century Library. After India was granted independence in 1947, Menon was appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, a post in which he remained until 1952. Subsequently, he led the Indian delegation to the United Nations (1952-1962), where he adopted a policy of non-alignment, loudly criticizing the United States and voicing support for the People’s Republic of China. Even till date Krishna Menon’s speech is the longest ever delivered in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
On 23 January 1957, he delivered an unprecedented 8-hour speech on defending India’s stand on Kashmir. Krishna Menon became a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1953. On February 3, 1956, he joined the Union Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio. In 1957 he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bombay, and in April of that year he was named minister of defence under Prime Minister Nehru. However, after India’s staggering defeat in the Sino-Indian War of 1962, he was removed from office for the country’s apparent lack of military preparedness. In 1967 he lost his parliamentary seat but was reelected in 1969. He died on October 6, 1974 in New Delhi. During his tenure as the High Commissioner to Britain, he was accused of being involved in a corruption scam involving the purchase of used military jeeps from Britain to supply to the Indian army during the war with Pakistan in 1948.