When the British government was trying its best to resist the spread of nationalistic sentiments in India in every way possible, a 22-year-young girl not only spread but 'transmitted' the message of freedom.
While the Quit India movement ravaged across the country, between August 27 and November 12, a group of youngsters operated an underground radio to spread information on the movement. The role of this was vital as the government had put a ban on newspapers and censorship on the press.
Several nameless people came together for the radio to work. A network of volunteers, students, and even home-makers worked to gather material for the bulletins. Though the broadcast time was fixed, the venue moved quickly as the operators were escaping the police. And among these people was Usha Mehta — who played a crucial role in establishing the radio and its broadcast.
Night Of Arrest: 'Vande Mataram' Record
However, on November 12, after she relayed the programme and put on a 'Vande Mataram' record for broadcast, Mehta was arrested and her colleague Chandrakant Babubhai Jhaveri.
Not that Mehta and her colleagues were not expecting the arrest. Several radio dealers in the city had been picked up that day, and some information about the chief operators of the Congress Radio had spread. So, when Mehta walked into the radio station that night, she had speculated how the night would unfurl.
Time Spent In Yerwada Jail
Reportedly, Mehta was asked if she had anything to comment on the proofs against her. She said, "Nothing". Again, she was asked whether she wanted to make a statement, to which she said. "No".
The only woman to be arrested in the case, Mehta spent almost four years in Yerwada jail. A considerable amount of this period was spent in solitary confinement as she was denied any reading material initially. It was only after the principal's wife at her college intervened that arrangements could be made for her to access books from the library.
Following this, she decided to utilise to pursue her PhD while in prison. In the later years, her courage acquired a legendary status, and she became famous as 'Radioben' in Mumbai's Gujarati circles.
Though the radio proved to be an effective way to reach many people, it was not safe. Mehta's efforts are particularly praised because she went ahead to take the initiative, despite being fully aware that she could get arrested.