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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.
Basu narrates these momentous periods in his diplomatic career with a rare lightheartedness which not only informs by giving the readers a ringside view of Indian bureaucracy, but also makes this book the most compelling and enjoyable book on policymaking to come out of India in years.