IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


23rd March, 2024 History


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  • A historical biography titled "Ae Watan Mere Watan" which premiered recently, sheds light on the remarkable story of Usha Mehta and Congress Radio.
  • Through the portrayal of Usha Mehta, the film delves into the clandestine operations of Congress Radio during the Quit India Movement in 1942.


Early Life and Influences

  • Birth: Usha Mehta was born on March 25, 1920, in Saras, near Surat, Gujarat.
  • Encounter with Gandhi: At the age of five, she first encountered Mahatma Gandhi during a visit to his ashram in Ahmedabad.
  • Involvement in Protests: Usha participated in protests against the British Raj from a young age, including chanting "Simon Go Back."
  • Move to Bombay: Her family moved to Bombay in 1932, allowing her deeper involvement in the freedom movement.

Education and Gandhian Lifestyle

  • Education: Usha attended Chandaramji High School and later graduated from Wilson College, Bombay, with a degree in philosophy in 1939.
  • Gandhian Influence: She adopted a celibate and austere lifestyle inspired by Gandhi, wearing only Khādī clothes and eschewing luxuries.
  • Advocacy: Usha emerged as a vocal advocate of Gandhian philosophy and principles.

Role in the Quit India Movement

  • Quit India Movement: Usha actively participated in the Quit India Movement from 1942, following Gandhi's call for independence.
  • Underground Activities: She assisted in organizing protests, distributing clandestine publications, and visiting relatives imprisoned for their involvement in the movement.
  • Secret Congress Radio: Usha played a pivotal role in establishing the Secret Congress Radio, broadcasting messages from Gandhi and other leaders to evade British censorship.

Secret Congress Radio

  • Radio Broadcast: The Secret Congress Radio began broadcasting on August 27, 1942, disseminating uncensored news and information banned by the British authorities.
  • Evasion Tactics: To avoid detection, the radio station frequently changed locations.
  • Arrest: Usha and her associates were eventually arrested on November 12, 1942, by the British authorities.

Setting Up an Underground Station

  • Procuring funds and technical expertise posed significant challenges.
  • Key figures like Babubhai Khakar, Vithalbhai Jhaveri, and Chandrakant Jhaveri played crucial roles.
  • Nariman Printer, holding an amateur transmitting license prior to the War, provided essential technical support.

Inaugural Broadcast

  • Congress Radio went live on August 31, 1942, from Chowpatty's Sea View Apartment.
  • Usha Mehta's inaugural words, "This is the Congress Radio calling on 42.34 meters, from somewhere in India," marked the beginning of a revolutionary venture.
  • The radio became the primary source of uncensored news and information for Indians, defying British censorship.

Capturing the Mood of the Times

  • Broadcasting crucial events like the Chittagong bomb raid and the Jamshedpur strike, Congress Radio kept the public informed.
  • Political speeches and messages directly addressed various segments of society, strengthening the resolve for independence.
  • The radio's broadcasts resonated with the spirit of the Quit India Movement, inspiring unity and determination among the people.

The End of Congress Radio

  • Despite efforts to evade detection by changing transmission locations, the authorities eventually apprehended the team.
  • Nariman Printer's disclosure led to the final broadcast on November 12, 1942, before the station was busted.
  • Usha Mehta's defiant stand during the raid, refusing to stop playing "Vande Mataram," remains emblematic of her unwavering commitment.

Imprisonment and Release

  • Interrogation: Usha endured six months of interrogation and solitary confinement but remained steadfast, refusing to betray the movement.
  • Sentencing: She was sentenced to four years' imprisonment and confined to Yeravda Jail in Pune.
  • Release: She was released in March 1946, becoming the first political prisoner released in Bombay, upon the orders of Morarji Desai, the home minister in the interim government.

Post-Independence Contributions

  • Academic Pursuits: Usha pursued higher education, earning a PhD from the University of Bombay, focusing on Gandhi's political and social thought.
  • University Career: She served in various capacities at Mumbai University, including lecturer, professor, and head of the Department of Civics and Politics.
  • Advocacy Work: Usha continued to advocate for Gandhian principles, writing articles and books in English and Gujarati.
  • Legacy: She was elected president of Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and actively involved in preserving Gandhian heritage.
  • Recognition: The Union of India conferred on her the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian award, in 1998.


Q.  The story of Usha Mehta and Congress Radio stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of those who dared to defy oppression in the pursuit of freedom.  Discuss. (250 Words)