‘This is the Congress Radio calling on 42.34 metres from somewhere in India,’ Usha Mehta’s voice rang defiant and clear to the entire country on a ghost transmitter. These words would come to reverberate across the struggle for Indian independence.
It was August 1942. The Quit India Movement had just been launched at the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee by Mahatma Gandhi. Inspired by his rallying cry, the twenty-two-year-old student of Wilson College stumbled upon the idea to start an underground radio station to cut through the imperial din of the government’s mouthpiece, the All India Radio. Risking it all for country in the face of crackdown, Mehta and her intrepid co-conspirators filled Indian airwaves with the heady zeal of rebellion.
The clandestine station-Congress Radio-broadcast recorded messages from Gandhi and other prominent leaders to devoted followers of the freedom struggle. Moving from location to location to dodge authorities, reporting on events from Chittagong to Jamshedpur, the radio station fought the propaganda and disinformation of the colonial government for three months-until their arrest and imprisonment in November of the same year.
In this riveting account, Usha Thakkar brings to life this high-voltage tale of derring-do, complete with stouthearted revolutionaries, thrilling escapes and a cruel betrayal, through the extraordinary story of Usha Mehta, the woman who briefly became, quite literally, the voice of the resistance.
The underground Congress Radio played a small but significant part in India's struggle for independence, and Usha Mehta was at its centre. Sadly the story of her involvement, activities, arrest, trial and conviction has so far not been told.This finely structured and affectionately written book, based on probing questions, detailed knowledge of Mumbai and deep understanding of Usha Mehta more than fills the gap. Having myself known Ushaben closely for over forty years, I can say with confidence that the book presents an image of her that is as true to reality as any image can be. - Bhikhu Parekh
This book on the Congress Radio of 1942 is a thrilling and moving account of how a daring underground operation was conceived and carried out, and of how it was busted by the colonial police. It is meticulously researched, drawing on a wide range of primary sources. At the centre of the story is the remarkable figure of Usha Mehta, a slight, slender, twenty-two-year-old freedom fighter of exemplary courage and resolution. The book deserves a wide readership, within and beyond the academy. - Ramachandra Guha
Usha Thakkar is President, Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Mumbai. She retired as Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai. She has done her postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago on a Fulbright Fellowship; at Cornell University on a Senior Fulbright Fellowship; and at York University on a WID Fellowship from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute. She was also a visiting fellow at Sheffield City Polytechnic, UK. The Asiatic Society of Mumbai has conferred an honorary fellowship on her. She has been vice-president, Asiatic Society of Mumbai, and also of Banasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan.
Her research areas include Gandhian Studies, Women’s Studies, and Indian Politics. Her publications (authored/co-authored/co-edited) include Gandhi in Bombay: Towards Swaraj; Understanding Gandhi: Gandhians in Conversation with Fred J. Blum; William Erskine; Women in Indian Society; Zero Point Bombay: In and Around Horniman Circle; Culture and the Making of Identity in Contemporary India; Pushpanjali: Essays on Gandhian themes in honour of Dr. Usha Mehta; and Ghunghat Ka Pat Khol (a collection of short stories by women writers in Gujarati). She has contributed to many prestigious journals and has also presented papers at many national and international conferences.