Aruna Asaf Ali was a great freedom fighter and recipient of Bharat Ratna. She was one of the strongest women leaders in India. Read more about the iconic personality here.
Aruna Asaf Ali was one of the glittering stars associated with the Independence Movement in India. She was the first woman to be awarded the coveted Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, postmuthously. She was also perhaps the only Bharatratna awardee who had the history of Communist politics.
Aruna was born in Kalkka, Haryana on 16 July 1909 as Aruna Ganguly. Her father Upendranath Ganguly was a merchant. She had her education in Sacred Heart convent in Lahore. She was studious and a favourite of the teachers.
After the education, she took charge as a teacher at Gokhale Memorial School in Calcutta. In 1927, she met Asaf Ali, a lawyer and Congress leader and both fell in love soon. There was an age difference of 23 years between them. Despite the protest from her family, Aruna married Asaf Ali in 1928.
The marriage was a turning point in her life as she was introduced to various subjects such as Politics, Economics and Marxism. She was highly influenced by the socialist leaders of Indian National Congress and became a part of the ongoing freedom struggle. Aruna grabbed attention by taking part in the Civil Disobedience movement, led by Mahatma Gandhi, in 1930 and was imprisoned subsequently. Upon release, her inclination towards the independence movement only assumed greater strength. She served imprisonment multiple times again.
She also participated in the Quit India movement in 1942. Due to the absence of prime leaders, since they had been arrested by the British government, Aruna raised the Congress flag at the Gowalia Tank maidan in Bombay, triggering the movement. Later she was called the Grand Old Lady of the Quit India Movement. She also served as the editor of Inquilab, a magazine published by Congress. Aruna became the president of Delhi Congress Committee in 1946. Due to her inclination towards Socialism, she quit INC after two years to found the Left Socialist Group. She was also active in trade union activities.
After the independence, she joined the Communist Party of India. In 1958, she was elected as the first woman mayor of Delhi. After the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, she returned to Congress though she didn't become active anymore. She was awarded International Lenin Peace Prize in 1964 and theJawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1991.
On 29 July 1996, that great woman fighter bid adieu to the world. The next year, the nation honoured the great personality with the prestigious Bharat Ratna.
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