V. P. Menon
|Born||30 September 1893|
|Died||31 December 1965(aged 72)|
Rao Bahadur Vappala Pangunni Menon CSI, CIE (30 September 1893 - 31 December 1965) was an Indian civil servant who played a vital role in India's partition and political integration. Later in his life he became a member of the free-market–oriented Swatantra Party.
The son of a school headmaster in Kerala, Menon worked as a railway stoker, coal miner and Bangalore tobacco company clerk before gaining a junior post in the Indian Civil Service. By working assiduously, Menon rose through the ranks to become the highest serving Indian officer in British India. In 1946, he was appointed Political Reforms Commissioner to the British Viceroy.
In Patrick French's book, India - a portrait, it is mentioned that VP Menon moved in with his Keralite friends after his wife left him and returned to south India. The couple had actually arranged his marriage and helped raise his two sons --- Pangunni Anantan Menon and Pangunni Shankaran Menon. When the husband died, Menon married his widow.
Partition of India
Menon was the political advisor of the last Viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten. When the interim Government had collapsed due to the rivalry between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, Menon had proposed to Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Indian leaders, the Muslim League's plan to partition India into two independent nations - India and Pakistan.
Menon's resourcefulness during this period caught the eye of Sardar Patel, who would become the Deputy Prime Minister of India in 1947.
VP Menon was present at the meeting between Lord Mountbatten and Hanawant Singh, Maharaja of Jodhpur. It was at this meeting that Hanwant Singh signed the instrument of accession to India. After he had signed and the Viceroy Mountbatten left, only Menon was in the room with him. The Maharaja took out a .22 calibre pistol and pointed it at Menon and said 'I refuse to take your dictation'. Menon told him that he would be making a very serious mistake by threatening him and would not be able to get the accession abrogated in any case.
Integration of India
After the independence of India, Menon became the secretary of the Ministry of the States, headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, with whom he had developed a bond of trust. Patel respected Menon's political genius and work ethic, while Menon obtained the respect for his work that a civil servant needs from his political superior.
Menon worked closely with Patel over the integration of over 565 princely states into the union of India, managing the diplomacy between the States Ministry and the various Indian princes, acting as Patel's envoy and striking deals with reluctant princes and rulers. Patel respected Menon's ingenuity in diplomacy, and often did not question if Menon exceeded any instructions.
Menon also worked with Patel over the military action against the hostile states of Junagadh and Hyderabad, as well as advising Nehru and Patel on relations with Pakistan and the Kashmir conflict. The Cabinet had dispatched Menon to obtain the accession of Kashmir into India in 1947.
The partnership between Patel and Menon was of a rare kind. He was right hand of Sardar Patel and played a major role in integration of Independent India. Almost every Indian politician was allergic to civil servants, owing to their participation in the British Raj. Many Congressmen had demanded stripping the service of its privileges or disbanding it all together, owing to the role of British-era officers in imprisoning Congress leaders. Nehru himself was reluctant to listen to the civil servants who worked under him.
Thus, after Patel's death in 1950, Menon himself retired from the newly formed Indian Administrative Service. He authored a book on the political integration of India, The Story of the Integration of Indian States and on the partition of India, Transfer of Power. He later joined Swatantra Party
Artistic depictions of V.P.Menon
- Menon, V.P (1961), The story of the integration of the Indian States, Orient Longmans, ISBN ASIN: B0007ILF54
- Menon, V.P (1999), Integration of Indian States, Sangam Books Ltd, ISBN 81-250-1597-3
- Menon, V.P (1999), The Transfer of Power in India, Sangam Books Ltd, ISBN 81-250-1596-5
- V P Menon - The Forgotten Architect of Modern India (Forgotten-raj.org)
- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
- Partition of India, History of India
- Indian Independence Movement
- Patel: A Life by Rajmohan Gandhi
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to V. P. Menon.|
- W. H. J. Christie, Menon, Vapal Pangunni (1894–1966), rev. S. R. Ashton Oxford Dictionary of National Biography