Asaf Ali, was born on 11 May 1888. He studied at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. Later, he pursued law in London. He gave up his practice during Mahatma Gandhi’s first non-cooperation movement in the early 1920s and returned to India. He married Aruna Ganguly (1928) which caused a stir as it was an inter-religious marriage and there was a 20-year age gap between them.
Role in India’s Independence Movement
Upon his return to India, he took part in the nationalist movement. He was elected as a Congress candidate and appointed as a Deputy Leader against a Muslim League candidate. Ali used his legal acumen to help nationalist leaders in courtrooms. The revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were defended by Asaf Ali, on the charge of throwing a bomb into the Hall of the Central Assembly.
He was imprisoned during the Quit India movement (1942). He was among members of the Working Committee of Congress like Jawaharlal Nehru who were detained in Ahmednagar Fort jail.
Ali also played an important administrative role. He served as the minister for railways when the Interim Govt. was formed in August 1946. In that capacity one of his first actions was the elimination of the separate supply of potable water on railway platforms like Hindu Pani and Muslim Pani. Both in his personal and political life, Ali sought to discard religious differences and promote harmony.
Contribution to Constitution Making
Asaf Ali was elected to the Constituent Assembly on a Congress party ticket from Delhi. He did not actively participate in the Assembly debates.
Ali was regarded as an important statesman. He was appointed as the Governor of Orissa twice (1948 and 1951). Ali played an important diplomatic role post-independence. He served as the first Indian Ambassador to the United States of America. Subsequently, he was appointed as the ambassador to Switzerland.
He passed away during his tenure as the Swiss Ambassador in Bern on 2 April 1953. In 1989, India Post brought out a stamp in his honor.