Asaf Ali

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Asaf Ali
Asaf Ali c- 1909 2013-08-09 16-24.jpg
Asaf Ali
Governor of Odisha
In office
18 July 1951 – 6 June 1952
Preceded by V. P. Menon
Succeeded by Fazal Ali
In office
21 June 1948 – 5 May 1951
Preceded by Kailash Nath Katju
Succeeded by V. P. Menon
Personal details
Born 11 May 1888
Died 1 April 1953(1953-04-01) (aged 64)
Bern, Switzerland
Nationality Indian
Spouse(s) Aruna Asaf Ali (Aruna Ganguly) (1928-1953)
Alma mater St. Stephen's College, Delhi
Occupation Indian independence activist, Freedom fighter, First Ambassador from India to USA, Railway and Transport Kingmaker

Asaf Ali (11 May 1888[1] – 1 April 1953) was an Indian independence fighter and noted Indian lawyer. He was the first ambassador from India 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 was re-elected as a Congress candidate against a Muslim League candidate and was chosen 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]

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 ambassador of India to the USA from February 1947 to mid-April, 1948. He was appointed the Governor of Odisha, but he resigned from the post in May 1952 on health grounds. His last assignment was as India's minister to Switzerland, Austria and the Vatican.

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 Ganguli, 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 21 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]

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


  1. ^ G. N. S. Raghavan and Asaf Ali, M. Asaf Ali's Memoirs: The Emergence of Modern India (Ajanta, 1994: ISBN 81-202-0398-4), p. 36.
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External links[edit]

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