Activist and historians in Britain have moved a petition seeking the face of Noor Inayat Khan, a secret agent who worked for Britain during World War II, printed on the new currency notes. The new, post-Brexit, polymer notes are expected to be issued in 2020, and the government is currently debating on the face that will appear on these notes.
The campaign is slowly gaining momentum with many people joining in. Even Congress MP Shashi Tharoor egged people to sign the petition saying, “Want to see an Indian woman, a war heroine on the new fifty-pound currency note.” Other contenders are Clement Atlee & Margret Thatcher (British PMs), Stephen Hawkins (scientist) and Mary Seacole (Nurse).
If this petition gets accepted, then Khan’s face on the new note could be the face of the first ethnic minority on any UK currency.
She is said to be the descendant of Tipu Sultan and tales of her bravery have been engraved in the records of history. Born in 1914 in the Kremlin in Moscow, Noor-un-Nisa Khan was a remarkable young lady in the British army during the Second World War. She handled a lot of war-related intricacies that required bravery and patience. Initially, she joined Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and was later recruited for the F (France) section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a secret organisation started by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. She was one of the only three women in Winston Churchill’s secret army.
At the age of 29 she served as the Special Operations Executive in the Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War. While she escaped Nazi forces thrice, Noor was later captured, tortured and killed on September 13, 1944. She was only 30 years old at that time. She endured brutal torture and never revealed anything. Her last words were “Libertie” (Liberty).
She was posthumously awarded the George Cross for her bravery, and was honoured with the award Croix de Guerre in France. In 2006, the then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee visited Noor’s childhood home ‘Fazal Manzil’ in Paris and described her bravery and sacrifice as ‘inspirational.’ In 2012, Princess Anne unveiled her bronze statue in Gordon Square Gardens, London. In 2014, a stamp was released on her name.