On 15th August 2020, India celebrates its 74th Independence day and remembers Usha Mehta, an unsung freedom fighter who chose a radio station to protest against British colonial rule.
When she was 22, she went “underground” to run a secret radio station while the whole country was fighting for freedom.
Indian Independence Leader, Mahatma Gandhi, released a slogan on 8th August 1942 “Do or Die. We shall either free India or die in the attempt” to fuel the young generation’s enthusiasm for freedom. Source: BBC.
Usha was strongly moved by Gandhi’s words, thus created a group of activists and launched a secret radio station within a week.
In an interview in 1969, Usha said- “When the press is gagged and all the news banned, a transmitter certainly helps a good deal in… spreading the message of rebellion in the remotest corners of the country,” Source: BBC.
Usha and her group used to broadcast freedom fight’s related news over the radio station.
Soon after Gandhi’s speech, he & his group were arrested for letting everyone have a lesson. This was the time when Usha Mehta came out fiercely & continued the freedom fighting operations with his group of young activists.
Usha Mehta was hardly 8 years old when she participated in her first protest rally. While in an interview in Naveen Joshi’s book (Freedom Fighters Remember), Usha said- “The first slogan I shouted against the British was ‘Simon Go Back’,” Source: BBC.
She aired her secret radio for the first time on 14th August 1942, and her first sentence was- “This is the Congress Radio calling on 42.34 from somewhere in India.” Source: BBC.
Illustrating her experience of running a secret radio station in that era, she said- “We got news from all over India by special messengers. Also, the office of the All India Congress Committee, which was in Bombay, then, used to supply us with important news.” Source: BBC.
She added- “When newspapers dared not touch upon these subjects under the prevailing conditions, it was only the Congress radio which could defy the orders and tell the people what actually was happening.” Source: BBC.
Further, she said- “We played Hindustan Hamara, then we relayed some news bulletins and a speech. Just when we were at the end of the program, playing ‘Vande Mataram’, we heard hard knocks on the door.” Source: BBC.
She said even after several knocks we didn’t open the doors and then the authorities broke it and “They ordered us to stop playing ‘Vande Mataram’. We did not oblige them.” Source: BBC.
In 1998, she was honored with the Padma Vibhushan award, one of the highest civilian honors in India.
Later, on 11th August 2000, when she was in her 80th year, due to some health issues, she passed away.
For more updates, stay tuned with us!