Aruna Asaf Ali

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Kalka, Haryana
Birth Sign
Kalka, Haryana

Aruna Asaf Ali, often known as the Grand Old Lady of the Independence Movement, was an Indian freedom warrior and independence activist. Her strong ties to the Indian National Congress and desire to strive for the country’s independence began when she met her husband, Asaf Ali, a Congress Party member. She eagerly participated in Congress programs, following in her husband’s footsteps, and quickly rose through the ranks of the party. She is most known for waving the Indian National Congress flag at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay on time, kicking off the Quit India Movement. The act was momentous since it happened after the British arrested all of the senior leaders and members of the Congress Working Committee, leaving the Quit India Movement without a leader. She worked for the betterment of the destitute and disadvantaged in addition to helping to the independence movement. She placed a strong emphasis on women’s empowerment and education. She received various national and international distinctions during her lifetime.

Childhood and Adolescence

Aruna Asaf Ali was born on July 16, 1909, in Kalka, Punjab, to Upendranath Ganguly and Ambalika Devi in an orthodox Bengali Brahmin household. She was the family’s eldest child, having been raised independently.

She had her early education at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Convent. She was so drawn to Catholicism during her school years that she wanted to become a Roman nun. Her family was so angry that they sent her to a protestant school in Nainital.

A Later Years

She worked as a teacher at the Gokhale Memorial School in Calcutta after graduating. She met her future husband, Asaf Ali, a famous Congressman, in Allahabad. In 1928, they married.

After marrying Asaf Ali, she adopted her husband’s lifestyle and became a more active member of the Congress party. She became interested in Indian politics and hoped to make a significant contribution.

Gandhiji’s goals and beliefs, as well as the views of others in the Indian National Congress, inspired her tremendously. Her first foray into politics was during the Salt Satyagraha in 1930, when she actively participated in public processions. She was arrested and jailed on the allegation of being a vagabond.

Unlike other inmates who were released as part of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact in 1931, she was not released until after a public outcry.

In 1932, she was caught again and imprisoned in Delhi’s Tihar Jail for her role in the liberation fight. Instead of lamenting her captivity and waiting for freedom, she organized political prisoners and launched a hunger strike to protest the bad treatment they were receiving.

Her outspokenness made jail officials wary of her. She was transported to Ambala Jail, which only housed male inmates, and she was forced to live in solitary confinement and isolation as a result. However, as a result of her protests, the situation of political prisoners has greatly improved.

She moved to socialism after being released from prison, rather than focusing on Congress doctrine. She wanted to raise awareness about caste hierarchy, poverty, and gender injustice among the poor.

She attended the 45th session of the Indian Congress in Bombay with her husband and became an active participant in the event. The Quit India Resolution was passed by the All India Congress Committee.
To put down the Quit India movement, British rulers detained all of the prominent leaders at the convention, believing that a movement without a leader would be simpler to control.

Not wanting to let the revolutionary enthusiasm die down, she took over the rest of the session and raced to Gowalia Tank Maidan as planned to hoist the Congress flag, thereby launching the Quit India movement. Her valor earned her the title of “Heroine of the 1942 Movement” or “Grand Old Lady” of the Independence Movement.

The police were enraged by her bold defiance and stormed the rally, firing tear gas at the crowd and crushing the flag she had raised. However, the damage had already been done, as riots and rallies erupted across the country.
She relocated from Bombay to Delhi in order to organize the resistance effort. However, faced with the prospect of being apprehended by the authorities, she went underground, evading arrest.

She edited the monthly magazine ‘Inquilab’ for the Congress party while she was underground. In 1944, he exhorted Indian youth to abandon pointless debates about violence and non-violence and join the freedom war.
She came out of hiding in 1946, when the arrest order against her was eventually lifted. She became a member of the Congress Socialist Party after expressing an interest in socialism.

While serving as Minister of Communication after India’s independence, Asaf Ali tried to improve the status of women.
She believed that empowering women through education was the best way to free them from the male-dominated society. She founded the weekly journal ‘Link’ and the daily newspaper ‘Patriot’ to pursue this goal.

She founded the National Federation of Indian Women in 1954 and served as its President until 1956 when she left the party.
She became a member of the Central Committee and Vice President of the All India Trade Union Congress after the Congress Socialist Party united with the Communist Party of India in 1955. She did, however, leave the Communist Party in 1958.

In the same year, she became Delhi’s first elected mayor. She worked together with other reputable leaders for the state’s social development while in the post. She rejoined the Congress Party in 1964 but did not actively participate in political activities.

Achievements and Awards

She was awarded the renowned International Lenin Peace Prize in 1964.
In 1991, she received the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding.

She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor, in 1992.
She was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, in 1997.

Personal History and Legacy

She met her future husband, Asaf Ali, a successful barrister and member of the Congress Party, in Allahabad. Despite the fact that they were deeply in love, their families were opposed to their union.

Asaf Ali was not only of a different faith than her, being a Muslim whereas she came from a Bengali Brahmo family, but he was also 22 years her senior. Despite their religious differences and age gap, the two married in 1928, following Muslim procedures.

Her family and relatives shunned her as a result of her unconventional marriage, which sparked outrage. Her name was changed to Kulsum Zamani after her marriage, but she was better known as Aruna Asaf Ali.
Her health deteriorated in the later years of her life. She died on July 29, 1996, after a long battle with sickness.

Her contribution to the fight for independence and the national movement is immeasurable. She was dubbed the ‘Heroine of 1942’ or ‘Grand Old Lady’ of the Independence Movement for her bravery and valor.

The Indian government honored her service to the Indian National Congress and the liberation cause with a stamp in 1998.
The Dr. Aruna Asaf Ali Sadbhawana Award is given out by the All India Minorities Front every year to distinguished persons.

Estimated Net worth

Aruna is one of the wealthiest civil rights leaders and one of the most well-known. Aruna Asaf Ali’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


She is renowned as the ‘Heroine of 1942’ and the ‘Grand Old Lady’ of the Indian Independence Movement.