Aruna Asaf Ali

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 17, 2022, 7:14

Aruna Asaf Ali is one of India's most prominent female freedom fighters. She was a revolutionary Civil Rights Leader who rose to prominence during the Quit India Movement in 1942. For her participation in the liberation movement, she is regarded as the 'Grand Old Lady of Indian Independence.'

Early Life of Aruna Asaf Ali

Aruna Asaf Ali was born into a Bengali Brahmin family on 16 July 1909 in Kalka, British India (now Haryana, India). Her father's name was Upendranath Ganguly and her mother's name was Ambalika Devi.

Her father belonged to the Barisal district of Eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh) and lived in the United Province. Her mother was the daughter of a renowned Brahmo leader Trailokyanath Sanyal who wrote many Brahmo hymns. She studied at Sacred Heart Convent (Lahore) and All Saints' College (Nainital).

After graduation, Aruna Asaf Ali joined the Gokhale Memorial School (Calcutta) as a teacher. In Allahabad, she met and soon fell in love with Asaf Ali, a Congress party leader. Being antagonized by her parents due to their different religions and the huge age gap, they married in 1928.

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Aruna Asaf Ali's Contribution to the Freedom Struggle

Early Independence Association -

  • After her marriage, she joined the Indian National Congress and strode in public caravans of the Salt Satyagraha.
  • Aruna Asaf Ali was detained on the pretext of being a vagabond.
  • As a result, she was not extricated even after the Gandhi-Irwin Pact in 1931 which called for all political prisoners to be released.
  • Her release was achieved after a public outcry.
  • Aruna Asaf Ali was imprisoned at the Tihar Jail in 1932 when she went on a hunger strike to protest the negligent conduct of political prisoners.
  • Although her efforts improved circumstances in the Tihar Jail, she was transferred to Ambala and placed in solitary confinement.

Rise to Eminence During the Quit India movement -

  • On 9 August, the Congress flag was hoisted at the Gowalia Tank Maidan by youthful Aruna Asaf Ali, who supervised the rest of the Quit India resolution session at Bombay.
  • For her bravery in the face of danger, Aruna Asaf Ali was labelled the Heroine of the 1942 campaign. In subsequent years, she has anointed the Grand Old Lady of Indian Independence.
  • In 1942, a warrant for her arrest was issued, but she escaped underground to avoid being captured and began an undercover movement.
  • Meanwhile, she co-edited Inquilab, the Congress Party's monthly magazine, with Ram Manohar Lohia.

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Post-Independence Involvement -

  • In 1948, Aruna Asaf Ali joined the Socialist Party after becoming disillusioned with the Congress Party's progress on socialism.
  • Regardless, she left the party with Edatata Narayanan and went to Moscow with Rajani Palme Dutt.
  • In the early 1950s, they both joined the Communist Party of India.
  • In 1954, She aided the formation of the National Federation of Indian Women, the CPI's women's arm but quit it in 1956 after Nikita Khrushchev disowned Stalin.
  • In 1958, Aruna Asaf Ali was designated the first Mayor of Delhi.
  • In the same year, she and Narayanan founded a publishing house and produced a daily newspaper- Patriot, and a weekly - Link.

Aruna Asaf Ali was honoured with the International Lenin Peace Prize in 1964 and the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1991. She received the Padma Vibhushan in 1992 (during her lifetime), and the Bharat Ratna in 1997 (posthumously). She died on 29 July 1996 in New Delhi. A stamp honouring her was released in 1998.

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FAQs on Aruna Asaf Ali

Q1. Who was Aruna Asaf Ali?

Ans. Aruna Asaf Ali was a freedom fighter most recognized for her involvement in the Quit India Movement. During the Salt Satyagraha, she also took part in several nonviolent agitations.

Q2. When was Aruna Asaf Ali born?

Ans. Aruna Asaf Ali was born on 16 July 1909.

Q3. What was Aruna Asaf Ali's parents' name?

Ans. Aruna Asaf Ali's father's name was Upendranath Ganguly and her mother's name was Ambalika Devi.

Q4.What was Aruna Asaf Ali known as?

Ans. Aruna Asaf Ali was known as the 'Grand Old Lady of the Indian Independence Movement.

Q5. When did Aruna Asaf Ali die?

Ans. Aruna Asaf Ali died on 29 July 1996.