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 Aruna Asaf Ali (1909 - 1996)
Born into a Bengali Brahmin family in 1909 at Kalka in Punjab, Aruna broke conventions at 19 to marry Asaf Ali, a prominent figure in the freedom struggle and 20 years her senior. Her marriage bought her face to face with the freedom struggle and social service, which she pursued till her death. As a part of Gandhi's Satyagraha movement she was sent to prison on charge of sedition.

The moment of reckoning came in 1942. The All-India Congress Committee had planned to launch the hoist the tricolor at Gowalia Tank maidan as a sign that the Quit India movement had begun. But the British got wind of the plan and swooped down and arrested all the top leaders, including Gandhi, a few hours before the event. As there was no National Leader and the crowd was getting impatient Aruna went ahead and unfurled the flag. She became a legend for thousands of youth that rose to emulate her.

The British offered an award for her arrest. But she remained free for over three years. Gandhi wrote to her, asking her to surrender, but despite her reverence for him, she ignored his advice. After Independence she turned to social work, and served as mayor of Delhi.

The country honored her with its highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously. She had died on July 29, 1996.

She is also the third woman after Indira Gandhi (1971) and Mother Teresa (1980) to be conferred with the Bharat Ratna.
Category filed under: Political

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