Aruna Asaf Ali

Aruna Asaf Ali was a freedom fighter who rose to prominence during the Quit India Movement. She is known as the ‘Grand Old Lady of Indian Independence’ for her role in the freedom struggle.

This article will give details about Aruna Asaf Ali within the context of the IAS Exam.

The early life of Asaf Ali

Aruna Asaf Ali on 16 July 1909, in Kalka Punjab (now a part of the Haryana state). Her parents were  Upendranath Ganguly and Ambalika Devi. Ambalika Devi was the daughter Trailokyanath Sanyal was a prominent leader of the Brahmo Samaj

Aruna completed her education at the All Saints College in Nanital. She would meet her future husband, Asaf Ali while working as a teacher at the Gokhale Memorial School in Calcutta. Asaf Ali himself was a member of the Indian National Congress (Founded on December 28, 1885). Despite familial opposition, they both got married and she would become an active participant during the independence struggle.

Role in the Indian Freedom Struggle

Aruna Asaf Ali took part in many non-violent agitations during the Salt Satyagraha. For this, she was promptly arrested by the colonial authorities.

The Gandhi-Irwin Pact was made in 1931 which promised the release of all those arrested during the Salt Satyagraha, but Aruna Asaf Ali was not among them. Only a strong protest by other women freedom fighters and Mahatma Gandhi helped in securing her release

Upon release, she was not politically active but at the end of 1942, she became an active member of the underground movement.

Aruna Asaf Ali – UPSC Notes – Download PDF Here

Contribution to the Quit India Movement

The Quit India resolution was passed by the Indian National Congress on August 8, 1942. In response, the colonial government arrested major leaders of the movement in order to pre-emptively collapse the movement. Despite major leaders and many workers of the party being in jail, Aruna Asaf Ali led the remainder of the party an unfurled the Congress flag at Gowalia Tank Maidan, marking the beginning of the Quit India Movement.

The police fired upon the crowd but Aruna stood her ground in the face of danger. The lack of senior leadership did little to stem the tide of nationalism as protests and demonstrations broke out throughout the country.

An arrest warrant was issued in her name but she managed to evade arrest and in while in hiding she edited the magazine Inquilab, a magazine of the Congress party. She continued to exhort the youth to fight for independence not through passive activism but through active revolution. The British announced a reward of Rs.5000 for her capture. Despite Mahatma Gandhi urging to surrender, stating that she had done her duty to the cause, she only came out out of hiding once the arrest warrant in her name was withdrawn in 1946. 

Life Post-Independence and Legacy

Aruna Asaf Ali was a member of the Congress Socialist Party, factions within the Congress Party for activists that had socialist-leaning. She left the Congress Socialist Party to join the Communist Party of India (CPI) She suffered a personal tragedy when Asaf Ali died in 1953.

Aruna Asaf Ali played a crucial role in the formation of the National Federation of Indian Women in 1954. This was the women’s wing of the CPI. She would leave the CPI, however, following Nikita Khrushchev’s rise upon the death of Joseph Stalin, in 1956. In 1958, Aruna Asaf Ali became the first mayor of Delhi 

Aruna Asaf Ali passed away in New Delhi on 29 1996, July at age 87

For her role in the Indian independence struggle, she was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1992 and the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1997. In her honour, the Dr Aruna Asaf Ali Sadbhawan Award is conferred annually by the All India Minorities Front.

Find the list of Bharat Ratna Awardees from 1954 to 2019, by visiting the linked article.

Frequently Asked Questions on Aruna Asaf Ali


Q 1. Who was Aruna Asaf Ali?

Ans. Aruna Asaf Ali was a freedom fighter known for her role in Quit India Movement. She had also participated in various non-violent agitations during Salt Satyagraha.

Q 2. Who was appointed as the first Mayor of Delhi?

Ans. In 1958, Aruna Asaf Ali became the first elected Mayor of Delhi and was responsible for major civic reforms.

Aspirants can find complete information regarding the UPSC Syllabus through the linked article. More exam-related preparation materials will be found through the links given below

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