Memorial created in Ottawa to remember Indian diplomat K Sankara Pillai

K Sankara Pillai: India’s first diplomatic martyr

A memorial has been created at the Indian high commission in Ottawa in memory of K Sankara Pillai, who was widely considered the first diplomat “martyr” of independent India. He was assassinated on April 19, 1961 in Ottawa on the age of 38 and the memorial marked the 60th anniversary of that tragedy.

The consular waiting area at the high commission in the Canadian capital has been named after him as the K Sankara Pillai Memorial Hall. A sapling was planted on the high commission premises in his memory as well. Pillai was serving as the first secretary at the high commission in Ottawa when he was gunned down by Shani Ferizi, who was of Yugoslavian origin. The assailant was tried by a Canadian court and has been sent to a mental hospital for several years. Pillai was 38 when he was killed and was survived by his pregnant wife and two children. He belonged to the first batch of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and his death was condoled in the Indian Parliament by then PM Jawaharlal Nehru.

A virtual memorial meeting was also organised by the high commission, with India’s envoy Ajay Bisaria saying the effort was to create a “permanent institutional memory” so that the late diplomat was not forgotten. A film on Pillai’s life and his shocking demise was featured at the event.