Usha Mehta: freedom fighter and organizer of a secret radio service to disseminate information | #IndianWomenInHistory
“This is the Congress Raudio call 42.34 meters from somewhere in IndiaThese lines were spoken by Dr Usha Mehta in 1942 as the Quit India movement was just gaining momentum. Dr Usha Mehta was a Gandhian and freedom fighter who is also known for her efforts in organizing Congress Radio, an underground radio station aimed at spreading nationalist fervor at a time when the country fought fiercely the British.
Born on 25e March 1920, Usha Mehta was from the village of Saras, located near Surat in the state of Gujrat. From an early age, she found herself actively participating in the fight 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 brought seawater home and produced salt from it. Dr Usha’s father vehemently criticized his participation 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 trip to Bombay gave him the opportunity to participate fully in the struggle for freedom. As a young child, she protested in front of liquor stores, secretly distributed various publications and was a messenger for those imprisoned in prison. In 1939 Usha Mehta graduated in philosophy from Wilson College in Bombay and began to prepare to study law. However, with the announcement of the Quit India movement, she decided to stop studying and join the struggle for freedom.
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 delivered 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 far corners of the world.
She fervently believed that radio could be used as a tool to help deliver facts and inform people of the world about events unfolding in her country. This, she believed, would also give us the opportunity to present our side of history, as opposed to that of the colonizer.
The 14the August 1942, Dr. Usha, along with his associates made the first announcement of “Congress Radio”. On this show, she would deliver the newsletter 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 reports the atrocities committed by them.
Read also : Neera Desai: the pioneer of feminist studies | #IndianWomenInHistory
To remain in hiding, they frequently had to change positions in order to remain anonymous and hidden from British radar. During the Quit India movement, they changed around 7 to 8 stations. The 12e In November 1942, while they were putting on a Girgaon performance, the police arrested Usha Mehta with his associates. She was tried by a special court for five weeks and sentenced to four years of rigorous imprisonment. She was released in 1946, the first political prisoner to be released in Bombay.
During imprisonment, Dr Usha was kept in solitary confinement and lured to the government with offers to study abroad in exchange for information about her fellow freedom fighters. However, she remained adamant and did not release 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 having contributed with my humble strength to the cause of freedom.“
“They ormade us stop playing Vande Matram, we didn’t make themDr Usha said. A true follower of Gandhian ideology, she believed in defending herself and her compatriots in a nonviolent manner. Throughout her life she wore khadi clothing and has used the bus as a means of transportation.
She obtained a doctorate in Gandhian thought from the University of Bombay and returned to Wilson College to teach political science. Usha Mehta expressed her thoughts on India after independence in a book titled “Freedom fighters remember», Respected by Naveen Joshi.
In this book, she talks about the division of power between the rich and the poor which has caused divisions in society. She says, “It was not the freedom for which we sacrificed everything. Yet it is our duty to have faith in our nation.”In 1998 she was awarded the Padma vibhushan from the Government of India.
The 11the August 2000, Dr Usha Mehta passed away peacefully at the age of 80. His zeal and enthusiasm to fight for his country is a real inspiration.
Read also : Remember Rama Devi: Walking to mobilize, work to raise | #IndianWomenInHistory