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Aruna Asaf Ali was a fearless freedom fighter who was dubbed the ‘Grand Old Lady’ of the Independence movement.
Aruna was born in 1908 into an orthodox Hindu family in British Punjab. While working as a teacher after her education, she met and married Asaf Ali, despite parental opposition on the grounds of age (he was more than 20 years older than her) and religion (he was Muslim).
Aruna got involved with the Independence movement after her marriage. She was arrested for addressing meetings and processions during the Salt Satyagraha in 1930, but was released due to widespread public agitation. She was arrested again in 1932, and went on a hunger strike in jail to protest the treatment of political prisoners. Though her protest led to improvement in conditions in the jail, Aruna was removed to solitary confinement in a male prison until her release. She became a legend in 1942 when she unfurled the Indian flag at the Gowalia Tank maidan in Bombay during the Quit India Movement.
After Independence, Aruna joined the Communist Party of India and helped create CPI’s women’s wing, the National Federation of Indian Women in 1954. In 1958, she was elected the first Mayor of Delhi and worked with activists for social development in the city. She later started a publishing house which published Patriot, a daily newspaper and Link, a weekly publication.
She was awarded the International Lenin Peace Prize in 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1991, Padma Vibhushan in 1992, and Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1997.
Why we find her inspiring:
– She was fearless in her fight for independence, enduring imprisonment and going underground to continue her fight despite multiple arrest warrants.
– She continued her participation in politics and development of India after Independence, and was finally elected as the first Mayor of Delhi!
– On a domestic front, she acted on her own wishes and didn’t allow religious or societal conventions to stop her from marrying Asaf Ali.
*Photo source: I Love India.
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