All About Usha Mehta, The Freedom Fighter Played By Sara Ali Khan In Ae Watan Mere Watan

Sara Ali Khan’s film ‘Ae Watan Mere Watan’ has premiered on Prime Video today (March 21). In the film Sara has portrayed the character of freedom fighter Usha Mehta. The movie is directed and co-written by Kannan Iyer and produced by Karan Johar, Apoorva Mehta, and Somen Mishra. The film delves on the life of follows the life of Usha Mehta and Congress Radio, a clandestine radio operated by Usha Mehta during the Quit India Movement in 1942.   

Here’s about the freedom fighter whom Sara is portraying in the film: 

Usha Mehta’s story embodies the unwavering spirit of a young woman who defied British authority with courage and ingenuity. Mehta’s legacy is forever etched in the history of the Indian independence movement, particularly for her pivotal role in establishing the Congress Radio, a clandestine operation that challenged British control over information during a crucial period. 

Usha Mehta was born in Surat, Gujarat, in 1920. While her father held a position as a judge under British rule, Mehta’s exposure to activism began at a young age. Witnessing the injustices of colonialism, she developed a strong sense of nationalism. By the age of eight, she participated in protests against the Simon Commission, a British inquiry into constitutional reforms in India, famously chanting “Simon Go Back” alongside other children. This early experience ignited a lifelong commitment to freedom within her. 

Involvement in the Freedom Movement
Mehta graduated from Wilson College in Bombay (now Mumbai). However, her studies were interrupted by the growing fervor of the independence movement. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance, she actively participated in civil disobedience campaigns during the 1930s. This included distributing banned literature and organizing protests against British rule. 

Congress Radio
In 1942, the Quit India Movement, a mass civil disobedience campaign launched by Gandhi, marked a turning point in the freedom struggle. The British responded with ruthless suppression, arresting leaders and imposing strict censorship on communication channels. Recognizing the need to counter British propaganda and keep the public informed, Mehta, then a 22-year-old law student, emerged with a revolutionary idea – the Congress Radio. 

With the help of other young revolutionaries like Ramnath Shukla and Chandrakant Shah, Mehta established a clandestine radio station. Operating from secret locations, often shifting between houses and makeshift studios, Congress Radio began broadcasting in August 1942.

Later in an interview, she had said, “When the press is gagged and all news banned, a transmitter certainly helps a good deal in furnishing the public with the facts of the happenings and in spreading the message of rebellion.”

The broadcasts, delivered in Hindustani languages (Hindi, Urdu, and Marathi) to reach a wider audience, defied British attempts to control information. 

The content broadcasted by Congress Radio was diverse and impactful. It included recorded messages from leaders like Gandhi that galvanised the public and reaffirmed the movement’s commitment to non-violent resistance. 

The radio also gave updates on the movement from information about ongoing protests, arrests, to British atrocities. The broadcasts countered British-controlled media narratives, offering unbiased accounts of events. 

The Congress Radio’s impact was significant. It provided a crucial platform for the freedom movement, fostering a sense of unity and purpose among the people. The British authorities, however, were determined to silence this defiant voice. 

Despite the constant threat of detection, Congress Radio continued its broadcasts for a few months. However, in November 1942, the British authorities, using radio signal triangulation techniques, managed to locate one of the transmitters. Mehta, along with other operators, was arrested and imprisoned. 

Following her release in 1946, Mehta remained committed to public service.. In 1998, she was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor, in recognition of her exceptional contribution to the nation’s freedom struggle. 

She died on 11 August 2000 at the age of 80. 

Also read: Ae Watan Mere Watan review

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