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Asaf Ali

(1888 – 1953) – (Uttar Pradesh)

Asaf Ali (Aged 65) was born on 11 May 1888 in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, India. He was a notable Indian lawyer and a fighter for Indian independence. He served as the first Indian Ambassador to the United States and also as the Governor of Odisha. He was educated at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi and was called to the bar from Lincoln’s Inn in England.

In 1914, Asaf Ali resigned from the Privy Council in support of the Turkish side during the British attack on the Ottoman Empire. He returned to India in December of that year and became actively involved in the nationalist movement. Asaf Ali was imprisoned several times during the freedom movement, including during the ‘Quit India’ resolution adopted by the All India Congress Committee in August 1942 when he was detained at Ahmednagar Fort jail along with Jawaharlal Nehru and other members of the Congress Working Committee.

Asaf Ali was in charge of Railways and Transport in the Interim Government of India headed by Jawaharlal Nehru from 2 September 1946. He also served as the first Indian Ambassador to the United States from February 1947 to mid-April 1947, and later as the Governor of Odisha. He was one of the most respected lawyers in the country and defended Shaheed Bhagat Singh 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, he came to be the convener of the INA defense team established by the Congress for the defense of the officers of the Indian National Army charged with treason later in November 1945.

Asaf Ali passed away in office in Bern on 2 April 1953, while serving as India’s ambassador to Switzerland. In 1989, India Post issued a stamp in his honor.