Memorial to ‘spy princess’ unveiled

Hasan Suroor
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Britain’s Princess Anne looks at a sculpture of Noor Inayat Khan after unveiling it in London on Thursday.— PHOTO: AFP
Britain’s Princess Anne looks at a sculpture of Noor Inayat Khan after unveiling it in London on Thursday.— PHOTO: AFP

The extraordinary story of Noor Inayat Khan, the plucky British Indian spy tortured and killed by the Nazis, was on Thursday publicly recognised as Princess Anne unveiled her bronze bust in a central London Square near the house where she lived.

It marked the culmination of a long and spirited campaign by Noor’s biographer Shrabani Basu.

The Princess said that Noor’s “remarkable” life and her sacrifice had an international appeal and would resonate with everyone. Her bust would remind people who she was and keep her story alive for posterity.

Musicians played songs written by Noor when she was 15 and the last post was sounded as a gathering of members of the royal household, diplomats, academics and peace activists observed a minute’s silence in her memory.

In an emotional message, read out by his grandson Omar, Noor’s brother Hidayat Inayat-Khan described her as a “symbolic representative” of the sacrifices made by those who fought for peace. He regretted that he was not able to attend because of ill health, but said ‘’my heart is with you all.”

‘’Let’s keep her memory alive.’’

Shrabani Basu, founder of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust which raised £60,000 for the memorial, said Noor represented the 2.5 million Indian soldiers who laid down their lives during the War fighting with the Allied forces.

She said that after the publication of, Spy Princess , in 2006 she was deluged with suggestions that there should be a memorial to Noor in London.

“I realised how much Noor’s story had touched ordinary people, especially the young,” Ms. Basu said.

She chose Gordon Square as the site because it was near the house where she lived, and from where she left on her last mission that was to end in her death after her cover as a secret agent was blown.

Noor was the first woman radio operator to be infiltrated into Occupied France but was eventually betrayed, captured and killed in Dachau Concentration Camp. Her last word was “Liberte.” She was posthumously awarded the George Cross by Britain, and France honoured her with the Croix de Guerre.

Born in Moscow to an Indian father, Hazrat Inayat Khan and an American mother, Ora Ray Baker, Noor was a descendant of Tipu Sultan. The family lived in London and moved to Paris when she was six.

The campaign for a memorial to her was backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and other leading public figures, including film=maker Gurinder Chadha and rights activist Shami Chakrabarti.



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