Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Noor Inayat Khan, daring British secret Indian woman war agent

Though Indian women in the past were bought up in a conservative society, when occasion demanded, they would never fail to display their courage and fighting spirits, despite odds being faced by them. In the annals of Indian history, regardless of religion and caste, there were countless women - be they from royal or ordinary families who left an indelible mark behind them that might act as an inspiration for the next generation of  younger women. Can you imagine one Indian Muslim woman of princely class sacrificed her life for Britain as a secret wartime agent in the most crucial period when the Germans led by Nazi ruler Hitler was gaining supremacy in Europe? It was dark days for England during the WWII time. The daring woman was none other than  Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, surprisingly a distant relative of Tipu Sultan of Mysore. 
Noor Inayat Khan. Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

 Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan (2 January 1914 -13 September 1944) was of Indian and  American  origin  and she took the honor of having received a posthumous award -  the George Cross, the highest civilian decoration in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations. Also known as "NoraBaker","Madeleine", and "Jeanne-Marie Rennier", she  played a commendable role as  an Allied Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent during the Second World War. Yet another credit she had earned was  she was the first female radio operator to be sent from Britain as SOE agent into occupied France to aid the French  resistance. In 1940 Germans led by Hitler brought France under his control. It is needless to point out that this kind of sensitive secret assignment, particularly, for a woman in a Nazi dominated country  requires extreme caution, presence of mind, extra courage and extraordinary ability to wiggle out any bad situation, detrimental to her personal safety and to the honor of the nation for which she is working.

Born on 2 January 1914 in Moscow, Ms. Inayat Khan was the eldest and her father was from a noble Indian Muslim family and her father's mother was a descendant of the uncle of Tipu Sultan, the 18th-century ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore and the well-known arch enemy of the British. Her father's profession was music and he was also a preacher of Sufism in Europe. Her mother, Pirani Ameena Begum (born Ora Ray Baker), an American from  New Mexico, who met Hazrat Inayat Khan during his travels in the United States and married him.


Before the start of WWI in 1914, Inayat Khan and her familiy initially lived in England after leaving Russia and finally settled down  near Paris in France in 1920.That point of time Noor inayat Khan was a young child and they  lived in a house gifted by  a benefactor of the Sufi movement. After the death of her father in 1927, Inayat Khan  and her siblings  Vilayat (1916–2004), Hidayat (1917–2016), and Khair-un-Nisa (1919–2011) were grief-stricken and Ms. Inayat took  the responsibility of taking care of her mother and other  younger siblings. She studied child psychology at the Sorbonne and music at the Paris Conservatory composing for harp and piano. She also became a story writer and her work  in 1939, Twenty Jataka Tales, inspired by the Jataka tales of Buddhist tradition, was published in London. 

In the midst of WWII, Inayat Khan and her family moved back to England - Falmouth, Cornwall, on 22 June 1940 soon after the Germans gained control in France.
Noor Inayat Khan playing sitar. www.thelallantop.com
woman power.Pinterest
Deeply influenced by humanism and the pacifist teachings of her  father, Ms. Inayat Khan  and her brother Vilayat wanted Nazi tyranny wiped out  across the face of the earth. She strongly felt:" I wish some Indians would  win high military distinction in the war
Ms. Inayat Khanen.wikipedia
 
if one or two could do something in the Allied service which was very brave and which everybody admired it would help to make a bridge between the English people and the Indians."
Inayat Khan's Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, England en.wikipedia.org/
The Princess Royal. www.dailymail.co.uk/
She joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) on 19 November 940 and, as an aircraft woman  she was trained as a wireless operator. Recruited to  F (France) Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), in early February 1943, Inayat Khan, was posted to the Air Ministry, Directorate of Air Intelligence, seconded to First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), and sent to some SOE schools for various training and her adopted name was "Nora Baker". Some superiors did not cherish the idea of sending her to handle  sensitive assignments because they had mixed opinion  on her suitability for secret warfare, and her incomplete  training.  However, her fluent French and her innate talents in wireless operation stood her in good stead and the army sent her for service in Nazi-occupied France on 16/17 June 1943. Crypto-named 'Madeleine'/W/T operator 'Nurse' and under the cover identity of Jeanne-Marie Regnier,  Ms.Inayat Khan was, on 16/17 June 1943, flown to  Northern France where she  was met by Henri Déricourt, a French pilot and later she went to Paris  where she met some  SOE agents, including women members (Diana Rowden, et al). She joined the physician network led by Francis  Suttill (code named Prosper) and successfully carried out certain assignments. Subsequently, over a period of one month, Physician network radio operators were arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), along with hundreds of Resistance personnel associated with Prosper.  Inayat Khan refused to return to England and stayed in Paris after the  round-up of their largest network.  Her stay as SOE agent  in Paris was a blessing in disguise. As a wireless operator in Paris at large, she kept sending important messages to London about the status of secret operations of Germans in France in the middle of mass arrest of secret agents. Thus, Ms. Inayat  gained notoriety as an eluding secret-agent at large in Paris. She became the most wanted British Agent with her picture and clear description posted at important places in Paris and every security officer was carrying it. Further, wherever she went she picked up tail and the wireless detection vans were  in close pursuit of her.

Being a smart woman,  to hoodwink the hawk-eyed German agents, she shortened her wireless operation to just half an hour almost daily and kept sending wireless messages to London. Besides, to avoid capture and to continue her clandestine operation, she managed to keep changing  her locations every now and then. She developed a sort of obsession for the most dangerous job in Paris and kept the British military abreast of what was going on in France. She did a wonderful job in the middle of danger and never lagged behind her assignment, as her intention was good: to wipe out the Nazis out of the planet.

 He secret operations came to an end at last  when she was betrayed to the Germans, either by Henri Déricourt or Ms.Renée Garry.  Ms.  Inayat khan had a long association with them since her arrival in France. Déricourt (code name Gilbert) was an SOE officer and former French Air Force pilot and, it is believed, that he had been  working as a double agent for the Sicherheitsdienst. Garry was the sister of Henri Garry, Khan's organizer in the Cinema network (later renamed Phono).

By 13 October 1943, Khan was arrested and interrogated at the SD Headquarters in Paris and the interrogation lasted for more than a month. Though she gave information about her family, the Germans could not not get even a single piece of information about  Britain. Hans Kieffer, the former head of the SD in Paris, testified that she was a tough nut to crack and she consistently lied to the agents. However, the Germans gained some information from her secret notes and they tried to mislead the British, sending false wireless messages using Ms. Inayat name.

On 25 November 1943, Inayat Khan  and her fellow SOE agents escaped from the SD Headquarters but met with fiasco in the middle and they were recaptured by the Germans. Having found Ms. Inayat Khan not being cooperative, the Germans, on 27 November 1943, took her to  Pforzheim "for safe custody" and  solitary confinement as a "Nacht und Nebel"  prisoner ("Night and Fog": condemned to "Disappearance without Trace"). She spent the next ten months with both legs and hands shackled and she carried a tag " dangerous prisoner". She and other women agents were tortured and the Germans made a futile attempt to get any valuable information about Britain.  Inayat khan and other women agents were, on 11 September 1944, taken to Dachau concentration camp  and on 13 September 1944 early morning  they were mercilessly executed by the prison officials who shot them in the back.  Following day, they were cremated in the crematorium there. In 1958 a Dutch prisoner (who remained anonymous) revealed that Ms. Inayat Khan was butchered by the SS officer one Wilhelm Ruppert.

In November 2012 a statue to Ms.Noor Inayat khan, seven decades after her death was unveiled in London by Princess Anne, a standing memorial to Britain's  first Muslim  war heroine. The statue is close to the place where Noor Inayat Khan lived in London - Gordon Square. When she was just 30, she faced the execution squad in Germany and uttered the last word "liberty.
Ref:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noor_Inayat_Khan.