13 Aug 2018

The College Girl Who Ran a Secret Radio Station To Fuel India’s Freedom Struggle

Emotions were running high among different groups representing the diversity of the Indian masses. The demand for complete independence from British imperialism was consistently ignored. To top it off, despite her colonised status, India’s participation in the Second World War was considered implicit.

The leaders had had enough. It was time for the British to finally quit India.

In Bombay, a young woman told her father that her education would have to wait and walked out of her home. She disappeared for nearly a fortnight, and when she resurfaced, she had helped set up an underground radio station.

The young woman was Usha Mehta, who would later come to be known as ‘Ushaben’.

Born on March 25, 1920, in Saras, near Surat, Gujarat, Usha met the Mahatma as a child. She grew up idolising the leader, so it was no surprise when she picketed liquor shops and lent her voice to the “Simon, Go Back!” slogan at the age of eight.

She participated in camps organised by the Mahatma, where she learnt about spinning khadi cloth. Gandhian thought and philosophy would influence her through the course of her life, where she would make crucial decisions at an early age, such as remaining celibate, keeping away from all luxuries and adopting the Gandhian lifestyle of wearing clothes made from khadi.

With a father who served as a judge under the British Raj, it was difficult for young Usha to freely participate in the freedom movement. When he retired in 1930, the family moved to Bombay, and young Usha joined the Chandaramji High School. It was now easier for her to distribute bulletins and publications, visit relatives jailed by the British and send them messages.

Usha also resumed her education while in Bombay. In 1939, she graduated in philosophy with a first-class degree and began to study law. In the years that followed, tensions and emotions in the country grew when the British announced India’s participation in the Second World War. The Indian National Congress stepped up its demand for poorna swaraj or complete independence, because how could India, a colonised state, fight in a war of sovereign nations.
The clarion call to Indian independence was blown, and the Quit India Movement was officially launched on August 9, 1942.

Usha had resurfaced with this secret radio station. Along with her associates, Vithalbhai Jhaveri, Chandrakant Jhaveri, Babubhai Thakkar and Nanka Motwani, (the owner of Chicago Radio, and the person who supplied equipment and provided technicians), the radio broadcast messages from Gandhi and other prominent leaders across the country.

Source - TBI

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