Sunday, 17 January 2016

Aruna Asaf Ali ( 1909-1996)

If we want to know the name of ` Grand Old Lady of India and Independence Movement' and the ` Heroine' of 1942 ` Quit India Movement', it is Aruna Asaf Ali. She was selfless, sensitive and emotional, charming in her manners and radical in her views. She was a staunch socialist who believed in setting up an equitable economic order. She symbolized the composite culture of India.
In the beginning Aruna was not interested in Indian politics. Since her husband was active in politics, she was drawn into the national movement, met congress leaders like Gandhiji, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and attended political meetings. In her political life she was influenced by Jaya Prakash Marayan, Ram Manohar Lohia and leaders of the Congress Socialist Party.
Asaf Ali, who took active part in Satya graha was arrested and it was her first major political involvement. She addressed public meetings and led processions. She was prosecuted in Delhi for living a vagrant and was sentenced to one year's imprisonment. There was public agitation for her release and after some days she was released. In 1932 Movement, she was arrested again and put in Delhi jail and later transferred to Ambala jail. After her releases he dropped out of the national movement for ten years.
In 1940 Gandhiji launched ` Civil Disobedience Movement'. Mahatma Gandhi himself selected the ` Satya grahis' and she was one of them. Aruna participated in his Movement and went to jail. She courted arrest in 1941 when Gandhiji started individual Satyagraha against British war effort. She went to Bombay to attend 45th Session of the Congress along with her husband in 1942 and was present at the passing of the ` Quit India' resolution on 8th August. Next day all prominent Congress leaders were arrested.
The All India Congress Committee had made a plan to perform the flag hoisting ceremony by Maulana Azad at Growali Tank Maidan. Now there was hesitation in the minds of volunteers. Aruna came forward and presided over the flag hoisting ceremony and unfurled the flag. After this, huge assembly was tear gassed, lathi charged and fired upon. Now she became fulltime activist in the ` Quit India Movement'. Her feelings of non-violence was changed to the spirit of retaliation. She went underground. She became the editor of Inquilab, the monthly Magazine of the Congress, along with Ram Manohar Lohia. Government announced a Rs 5000 award for her capture. But she remained free for over 3 years.
There are a number of heroic stories connected with underground life, confirming her sufferings and her sacrifice. As a result, she fell ill and Gandhiji advised her to surrender but she ignored his advice. She surrendered herself only when the warrants against her were cancelled on 26th January, 1946. The years of struggle made her a stronger person and she did not hesitate to differ from the leaders like Gandhiji, Pandit Nehru and Maulana Azad, but she had all the respect for them.
Aruna was against the idea of an Interim government. She was not happy when Asaf Ali became the Minister of Communications in September 1946. A year later, she did not accompany her husband, when he was appointed India's Ambassador to Washington.
In 1948, she differed with Congress politics and joined Socialist party. After two years she formed the left socialist group and took interest in Trade union movement. In the year 1953, Asaf Ali died. In 1955 the group merged with communist party of India and she became Vice president of All India Trade Union Congress. In 1958 she left the Communist Party and remained unattached to any political party.
On the Moment of Pt. Nehru's death in 1964, she came back to congress but did not play any active part in politics. She was associated with the ` Lin' and ` The Patriot', two left news papers published from New Delhi. She could not adjust with political realities and lived a retired life, before her death on 29th July, 1996; She was honoured with the highest civilian award ` The Bharat Ratna', posthumously in 1997.

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