Obituary: Krishnarao Shelvankar

Krishnarao Shelvankar had three careers, spanning nearly five decades - political philosopher and intellectual, journalist and then diplomat.

As an intellectual, he successfully challenged established political philosophy in the Thirties and Forties in England through two influential books. His Problems of India (1940), a brilliant critique of colonial rule, was one of the first books written by an Indian author to be published by Penguin. It was banned in India, then under British rule but, undaunted, Shelvankar went on to challenge Aldous Huxley's famous Ends or Means? (1937), forcefully responding with Ends are Means. Both books earned him kudos and influenced an entire generation of political leaders living under colonial bondage.

As the London correspondent for the Hindu newspaper for 26 years, Shelvankar provided an incisive and analytical insight into the newly emerging world order after decolonisation in the Fifties and Sixties, and an individual coverage of the Vietnam war. Thereafter he served as India's consul general at Hanoi and then as ambassador to the erstwhile Soviet Union and Norway.

Whilst greatly influenced by Marxism, Shelvankar was a genuine socialist, drawn intellectually to oppose colonialism. He joined the India League in London, then at the forefront of India's independence movement, and remained a member till he died. He was also influenced by Harold Laski, under whom he studied at the London School of Economics, and by Krishna Menon, one of India's best-known Leftist intellectuals, the founder of the India League and Penguin Books, India, and later independent India's first high commissioner in London.

Krishnarao Shelvankar was born in Madras, in 1906, into an upper-class Maharashtrian family and educated at the Theosophical School founded by Annie Besant and Giddu Krishnamurthy. After graduating locally he did his doctoral thesis on "The Idea of Equality" at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1929, and then went to the LSE.

He joined the Hindu, southern India's best-established paper, in 1942 as their London correspondent, retiring 26 years later. For some two years in between he was press adviser to Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India's first prime minister, and was often called upon to represent his country at international forums like the United Nations. In 1968, he was sent as India's consul general to North Vietnam, a country whose cause he had espoused sympathetically as a journalist. Three years later he became India's ambassador to the Soviet Union and, later, Norway before retiring in 1978 and settling in London.

Although a permanent resident in England, returning home infrequently, Shelvankar retained his Indian citizenship. But on his occasional visits home he was shocked by India's poverty, disappointed that so little had been achieved after independence.

Krishnarao Shelvankar, journalist and diplomat: born Madras 3 March 1906; London correspondent, the Hindu 1942-68; Indian consul general, Hanoi 1968-71, ambassador to the Soviet Union 1971-75, ambassador to Norway 1975-78; died London 19 November 1996.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?