Usha Mehta

Usha Mehta was a freedom fighter known for her role in setting up the Congress Radio, an underground radio that functioned during the Quit India phase of the independence struggle.

Congress radio played a crucial role in coordinating the various protests when the senior leadership were arrested by the British colonial authorities

This article will give details about Usha Mehta within the context of the Civil Services Examination.

Early Life of Usha Mehta

Usha Mehta was born in Saras Village in Gujarat on 25 March 1920. When she was about 5 years old, she visited Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram at Ahmedabad.

Barely at 8 years, she began an active member of the Indian freedom struggle with one of her first protest being against the Simon Commission in 1928.

Usha’s father served as a judge under the British authorities.  Therefore her participation was limited to a certain extent but this hurdle was overcome when he retired in 1930. She became even more actively involved when her family shifted to Mumbai in 1932 by distributing clandestine bulletins, publications and carrying messages to jailed leaders

In 1939 she graduated from Wilson College in Bombay but her study in law came to an end when she would join the Quit India movement in 1942. It was also around this time when she became a proponent of the Gandhian philosophy, adapting a Spartan lifestyle and forsaking all luxuries. This would help her on the path to come.

Usha Mehta’s role in the Freedom Struggle

The Quit India movement was announced by the Indian National Congress 9Formed on December 28, 1885) and slated to commence on 9 August 1942. The British authorities pre-emptively arrested all the leaders including Mahatma Gandhi in order to derail the movement, but junior leaders like Aruna Asaf Ali still went ahead with the event, hoisting the national flag at Gowalia Tank ground and thus starting the Quit India movement

On 14 August 1942, Usha and he close associated began the underground Congress Radio, a clandestine radio station that went on air on 27 August. The radio broadcasts recorded messages from Gandhi and other prominent leaders of the freedom movement. The messages were played across India by the Congress Radio. The British tried to clamp down on the Congress Radio but its location was changed daily to avoid detection. But they were eventually found on 12 November 1942, and all its organisers including Usha were arrested.

Usha Mehta: UPSC Exam Notes – Download PDF Here

She was held in solitary confinement and offered incentives to betray the movement but it was of little use. During her trial, she chose to remain silent and did not answer any questions put forward by the prosecution even to the ones that would have saved her. She was sentenced to four years imprisonment at Yervada Jail in Pune. She was released in 1946.

Congress Radio played a key role in the independence struggle by spreading uncensored news and other information banned by the colonial authorities. Just within three months of its formation, the Congress Radio had become a proverbial bane for the British

Solve previous years UPSC Mains History Question Papers by visiting the linked article

Later Years of Usha Mehta

Upon India’s independence, Usha Mehta actively spread Gandhian thought and philosophy. In the ensuing years, she authored many articles, essays and books in English and Gujarati. The Government of India held many celebrations in her honour during India’s 50th anniversary of freedom. 

She was conferred the Padma Vibhushan in 1998, the second-highest civilian award of India.

To know the difference between Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhusan, visit the linked article

In August 2000, she took part in the celebrations that marked the anniversary of the Quit India Movement in August, despite suffering from ill-health. It did weaken and exhaust her to a great extent. She passed away on 11 August 2000, aged 80. She was survived by her elder brother and three nephews

To this day Usha Mehta and her role in the Congress Radio is remembered as it kept the movement going despite all obstacles that came in its wake.

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