Born in 1929 in Burhanpur (Madhya Pradesh), Ahsan Jafri moved to Ahmedabad in 1935. His father, Dr. Allahbaksh Jafri was an active worker of the freedom movement of India, which had a great impact on the formative life of Ahsan Jafri. During his studies at the R.C. High School in Ahmedabad, he started associating with the freedom struggles and participated in demonstrations. He also served as the editor of the Urdu magazine published by the R.C. High School.
Ahmedabad was the Manchester of India in those days. The numerous cloth mills, the labor unions, all pervasive and powerful principles of communism, greatly influenced young Ahsan Jafri. He started participating in labor union meetings and helped voice their concerns. His powerful writings about the exploitation of poor people, criticism of the establishment, and calls for revolution, led him to the prison in Baroda in 1949. Following the release from the prison after one year, he got elected the General Secretary of Progressive Editor's Union where he pursued his interest in Urdu literature and continued writing about the need for the social welfare of poor laborers. He also completed his Law degree and started practicing as an attorney in Ahmedabad.
Impressed with Indira Gandhi's slogans on "socialism" and "remove poverty", Ahsan Jafri joined Congress Party in 1960's. In 1972, he was made the Ahmedabad Congress President. Following emergency, when Indira Congress was routed in all states, Ahsan Jafri won the parliamentary election and became the Member of Parliament from Ahmedabad.
During communal riots of 1969, Jafri's house was burnt down. He had stayed in the relief camp with his family for several days. The carnage had left strong impressions on his mind. He had resolved to work to bring an understanding, respect and acceptance amongst Hindus and Muslims of each other's values and faith. Against all advice from his friends and family, he returned and rebuilt his burnt house.
Recognizing the need and the urgency for religious tolerance in the region, he had resolved to teach the elements of unity and communal harmony to his people. With that still on his mind, he did not seek another term to the Parliament, but returned to Ahmedabad to pursue his interests in literature, social work and the cause of advancing integration and nationalism in his people. In 1996, he published his book Qandeel (lantern) which is a collection of his work in poetry. He remained a Congress worker even after his return from Delhi and held several key positions in the Party and the Administration in Gujarat.
He was killed by Hindutva terrorist on February 28, 2002, in the aftermath of Godhra incident.