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Aruna Asaf Ali Biography

Aruna Asaf Ali is famous for hoisting the Congress flag at the Gowalia Tank maidan in Bombay during the Quit India Movement in 1942. She was born on 16 July 1909 at Kalka, Haryana and was educated at Lahore and Nainital. After completing her education, she began to teach at the Gokhale Memorial School in Kolkata.

She married Asaf Ali, a Congress leader in 1928. After her marriage, she began to participate actively in the freedom movement. She participated in the Salt Satyagraha. She was held prisoner at the Tihar Jail in 1932 where she protested the shabby treatment meted out to prisoners by launching a hunger strike. Thereafter she was moved to Ambala and put in solitary confinement.

After the AICC passed the Quit India resolution on 8 August 1942, the British government responded by arresting the major leaders of the Congress Working Committee. It was left to a young Aruna Asaf Ali to preside over the remainder of the session on 9 August. She hoisted the Congress flag at the Gowalia Tank maidan and earned the epithet “Heroine of the 1942 movement”. The British government tried to arrest her, but she went underground in the meantime. Her property was seized and sold. She began to edit Inquilab, a monthly magazine of the Congress Party. She came out of hiding after the arrest warrant against her was withdrawn. She was very close to Mahatma Gandhi.

Aruna Asaf Ali was a member of the Congress Socialist Party, a group within the Congress Party for activists with socialist leanings. She was disillusioned with the progress of Congress party on socialism and joined a new party, Socialist Party in 1948. She did not stay in that party for long and joined the CPI(Communist Party of India). She helped found the National Federation of Indian Women, the women’s wing of CPI in 1954. This remarkable lady was elected as the first Mayor of Delhi in 1958. She rejoined the Congress Party in 1964 but did not take part in active politics.

She received many awards during her lifetime. She was awarded the International Lenin Peace Prize in 1964 and the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1997. This great freedom fighter passed away on 29 July 1996.