Usha Mehta: Freedom Fighter and Organizer of a Secret Radio Service to Spread News | #IndianWomenInHistory

This is Congress Rbye calling 42.34 meters from somewhere in Indiathese lines were spoken by Dr. Usha Mehta in 1942, as the Quit India movement was gaining momentum. Dr Usha Mehta was a Gandhi and freedom fighter who is also known for her efforts in organizing Congress Radio, an underground radio station to spread nationalist fervor at a time when the country was vehemently fighting the British .

Born on 25and March 1920, Usha Mehta is from the village of Saras, located near Surat in the state of Gujrat. From an early age, she found herself actively involved in the struggle against British rule. In 1928, at the age of eight, she took part in her first demonstration against the Simon Commission.

In an interview, she remember, that during Salt Satyagraha she would bring sea water to her house and produce salt from it. Dr Usha’s father was vehemently critical of his involvement in such movements as he was a judge under the British Raj. However, after her retirement in 1930, she was allowed to do whatever she wanted.

Dr. Usha’s subsequent stint in Bombay gave him the opportunity to participate fully in the struggle for freedom. As a young child, she protested outside liquor stores, secretly distributed various literature, and was a messenger for those imprisoned in prison. In 1939, Usha Mehta graduated from Wilson College in Bombay with a degree in philosophy and began preparing to study law. However, with the announcement of the Quit India movement, she decided to quit her studies and join the struggle for freedom.

The 14thand August 1942, Dr. Usha, along with his associates, launched the first advertisement for “Radio Congress”. In this show, she was delivering the newscast in English and Hindi. They would start the show with the song “Hindustan Hamara” and close it with “Vande Matarm”. Despite the strict vigilance maintained by the British authorities, his station fearlessly reported the atrocities committed by them.

Organization of the secret radio service: Fueling the Quit India Movement

In 1942, in a All India Congress Committee (AICC), Dr. Usha Mehta was aware of the powerful speeches given by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. This gave him the impetus to organize a secret radio station and help spread information to the farthest corners of the world.

She fervently believed that radio could be used as a tool to help deliver facts and inform people around the world about events unfolding in her country. This, she believed, would also give us the opportunity to present our side of the story, as opposed to the colonizer’s.

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While imprisoned, Dr. Usha was kept in solitary confinement and lured by the government with offers to study abroad in exchange for information about her fellow freedom fighters. However, she remained adamant and did not divulge any information. When she was released, Dr Usha said: “I came back from prison happy and proud because I had the satisfaction of carrying Bapu’s message, “Do or Die” and contributing my humble power to the cause of freedom.

The 14thand August 1942, Dr. Usha, along with his associates, launched the first advertisement for “Radio Congress”. In this show, she was delivering the newscast in English and Hindi. They would start the show with the song “Hindustan Hamara” and close it with “Vande Matarm”. Despite the strict vigilance maintained by the British authorities, his station fearlessly reported the atrocities committed by them.

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To remain underground, they had to change position frequently in order to remain anonymous and hidden from British radar. During the time of the Quit India movement, they changed about 7-8 stations. The 12and In November 1942, while hosting a Girgaon show, the police arrested Usha Mehta along with her associates. She was tried by a special court for five weeks and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for four years. She was released in 1946, the first political prisoner to be released in Bombay.

While imprisoned, Dr. Usha was kept in solitary confinement and lured by the government with offers to study abroad in exchange for information about her fellow freedom fighters. However, she remained adamant and did not divulge any information. When she was released, Dr Usha said: “I came back from prison happy and proud because I had the satisfaction of carrying Bapu’s message, “Do or Die” and contributing my humble power to the cause of freedom.

Gandhi’s life

“They orasked us to stop playing the Vande Matram, we didn’t oblige them“, said Dr. Usha. A true follower of Gandhian ideology, she believed in defending herself and her compatriots in a non-violent way. Throughout her life, she wore khadi clothes and used the bus as a means of transport.

She earned a doctorate in Gandhian thought at the University of Bombay and returned to Wilson College to teach political science. Usha Mehta expressed her thoughts on post-independence India in a book titled “Freedom fighters remember“, respected Naveen Joshi.

India's Unsung Freedom Fighters - Dr. Usha Mehta - Rajya Sabha TV
Dr Usha Mehta Image: RSTV

In this book, she talks about the division of power between rich and poor that has caused divisions in society. She says, “It wasn’t the freedom we sacrificed everything for. Yet it is our duty to have faith in our nation.“In 1998, she received the prize Padma Vibhushan of the government of India.

The 11thand In August 2000, Dr. Usha Mehta passed away peacefully at the age of 80. His zeal and enthusiasm to fight for his country is truly inspirational.

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Thelma J. Longworth