Decades After War Trials, Japan Still Honors a Dissenting Judge

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An Indian judge, remembered by fewer and fewer of his own countrymen 40 years after his death, is still big in Japan.

In recent weeks alone, NHK, the public broadcaster, devoted 55 minutes of prime time to his life, and a scholar came out with a 309-page book exploring his thinking and its impact on Japan. Capping it all, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a visit to India last week, paid tribute to him in a speech to the Indian Parliament in New Delhi and then traveled to Calcutta to meet the judge’s 81-year-old son.

A monument to the judge — erected two years ago at the Yasukuni Shrine, the memorial to Japan’s war dead and a rallying point for Japanese nationalists — provides a clue to his identity: Radhabinod Pal, the only one out of 11 Allied justices who handed down a not guilty verdict for Japan’s top wartime leaders at the post-World War II International Military Tribunal for the Far East, or the Tokyo trials.

[HNN: The article goes on to explain that some independence leaders in India, anxious to weaken British rule, sided with the Axis powers during World War II. A Harvard historian speculates that the judge, an anti-colonialist, may have shared their position.]

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