Asaf Ali

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Asaf Ali
Asaf Ali c- 1909 2013-08-09 16-24.jpg
Asaf Ali c. 1909
Amabassador of India to Switzerland
In office
1952 – 2 April 1953
Preceded byDhirajlal Bhulabhai Desai
Succeeded byY. D. Gundevia
2nd Governor of Odisha
In office
18 July 1951 – 6 June 1952
Preceded byV. P. Menon
Succeeded byFazal Ali
In office
21 June 1948 – 5 May 1951
Preceded byKailash Nath Katju
Succeeded byV. P. Menon
Personal details
Born11 May 1888
Seohara, North-Western Provinces, British India
Died2 April 1953(1953-04-02) (aged 64)
Bern, Switzerland
Aruna Ganguly (m. 1928)
Alma materSt. Stephen's College, Delhi
OccupationLawyer, activist

Asaf Ali (11 May 1888[1] – 2 April 1953) was an Indian independence fighter and noted Indian lawyer. He was the first Indian Ambassador to the United States. He also worked as the Governor of Odisha.


Asaf Ali was educated at St. Stephen's College, Delhi. He was called to bar from Lincoln's Inn in England.

Indian National Movement[edit]

In 1914, the British attack on the Ottoman Empire had a large effect on the Indian Muslim community. Asaf Ali supported the Turkish side and resigned from the Privy Council. He saw this as an act of non-cooperation and returned to India in December 1914. Upon his return to India, Asaf Ali became heavily involved in the nationalist movement.

He was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly in 1935 as a member of the Muslim Nationalist Party. He then became significant as a Congress member and was appointed as deputy leader.[2]

The last of several spells of imprisonment which Asaf Ali courted during the freedom movement was in the wake of the 'Quit India' resolution adopted by the All India Congress Committee in August 1942. He was detained at Ahmednagar Fort jail along with Jawaharlal Nehru and other members of the Congress Working Committee.[3]

Post 1946[edit]

Ali in 1949
Ali on a 1989 stamp of India

He was in charge of the Railways and Transport in the Interim Government of India headed by Jawaharlal Nehru from 2 September 1946. He served as the first Indian Ambassador to the United States from February 1947 to mid-April 1947

Legal career[edit]

Asaf Ali rose to become one of the most respected lawyers in the country. He defended Shaheed Bhagat Singh[4] and Batukeshwar Dutt as a lawyer, after they threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly on 8 April 1929, during the passage of a controversial ordinance.

In 1945, Ali came to be the convener of the INA defence team established by the Congress for the defense of the officers of the Indian National Army charged with treason later in November 1945.[5]

Personal life[edit]

In 1928, he married Aruna Asaf Ali, a marriage that raised eyebrows on the grounds of religion (Asaf Ali was a Muslim while Aruna was a Hindu) and age difference (Aruna was 20 years junior to him). She is widely remembered for hoisting the Indian National Congress flag at the Gowalia Tank maidan in Bombay during the Quit India Movement, 1942.

Death and legacy[edit]

Ali died in office in Bern on 2 April 1953,[6] while serving as India's ambassador to Switzerland. In 1989, India Post brought out a stamp in his honor.[3] His wife Aruna Asaf Ali was honored with India's highest civilian award- Bharat Ratna.[7]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ G. N. S. Raghavan and Asaf Ali (1994) M. Asaf Ali's Memoirs: The Emergence of Modern India. Ajanta. ISBN 81-202-0398-4. p. 36.
  2. ^ M. Asaf Ali | Making Britain. Retrieved on 7 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b Asaf Ali. (2 April 1953). Retrieved on 2018-12-07.
  4. ^ Historical Trials (2008). "The Trial of Bhagat Singh". India Law Journal. 1 (3).
  5. ^ Lawyers in the Indian Freedom Movement « The Bar Council of India. Retrieved on 7 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Asaf Ali Dead". The Indian Express. 3 April 1953. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  7. ^ Aruna Asaf Ali's 20th death anniversary: Some facts about the Grand Old Lady of Independence – Education Today News. (29 July 2016). Retrieved on 2018-12-07.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Indian Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit