Real-Life Ram Manohar Lohia In ‘Ae Watan Mere Watan’: How Did He Die?


Ae Watan Mere Watan made us privy to the unsung hero of the Indian national movement: the fierce brave heart named Usha Mehta. She ran an underground radio station called Congress Radio for about three months, and during that short duration, she was able to shake the foundations of the British Raj. Many political figures joined her on her quest, and among them, the most prominent one was Ram Manohar Lohia. The real-life character of Lohia is played by Emraan Hashmi on screen, and it is shown how radio became one of the most significant weapons against colonial rule. In the film, we saw that Fahad was a big fan of Ram Manohar Lohia, and he was in awe of his academic qualifications. Ram Manohar Lohia completed his graduation from Calcutta University and then later went to Berlin University to complete his doctorate. Fahad always told people that considering how he came from a privileged background and since he belonged to the family of merchants, he had the option of even going to England for further studies, but he still chose Berlin.

Fahad’s theory was that Germany, at that point in time, was believed to be a country of thinkers and poets. Be it in the field of literature or science, the curriculum of many universities was such that it provided a brilliant nurturing platform for young minds and made sure that they realized their complete potential. Lohia came back to India after that, and he decided to join the Indian freedom struggle. Ram Manohar Lohia was arrested for the very first time in 1939, and he was charged with the crime of giving hate speeches against the government. It was then that he realized what impact words could have and how they could motivate people to act together against colonial rule. Lohia was a learned man, and he had a lot of knowledge about the socio-economic strategies employed by the British Raj and how they sought to make the country hollow from within. In fact, his thesis was about the salt taxation policies of the British government and how Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi tried to tackle them through his revolt. Be it any generation, the first thing that a dictatorial regime seeks to achieve is complete control over the media.

At that time, the newspaper and the radio were two means through which a person could reach people all over the country. The British government had very quickly realized that they would have to control the narrative and brainwash the people into believing that colonial rule was the best for them. Anybody who criticized the government policies was arrested by the law enforcement authorities, and a ban was put on all the magazines and newspapers that published any kind of protest piece. In the film, we saw that Usha Mehta bumped into Ram Manohar Lohia one day, and she told him all about the underground Congress radio that they had been operating. Ram Manohar Lohia came on board, and together, they started broadcasting messages at a specific time. We don’t know if the meeting happened like that in real life, too, but it is true that Lohia became a part of the underground radio operation soon after it was started. It is to be noted here that Congress Radio was active for merely 3 months, but in that period, too, Lohia, Mehta, and others were able to make a significant impact. At that point in 1942, the All India Radio served as the mouthpiece of the British government, and Lohia felt the need to combat their narrative and give fiery speeches that made the Indian citizens aware of reality. The colonial rule was scared of a few things, like unity among the masses and influential figures who had the potential to move the people, and now the radio was also added to the list. It is true that a manhunt was organized, as strict orders were given to catch hold of Lohia and put him behind bars before he did some irreparable damage. 

The character of John Lyre in Ae Watan Mere Watan could be said to be an amalgamation of the police officers who were given the task of catching Lohia and finding the Congress Radio. For the longest time, Lohia was on the run, and he kept fighting for their Indian freedom struggle. He had this underground network of revolutionaries who fought against colonial rule, and in the last broadcast, he made sure that Usha Mehta delivered his message and urged the people to put the final nail in the coffin of the British Raj. It is true that Ram Manohar Lohia was caught yet again by the authorities in May 1946. He was kept in Lahore Fort prison, and the government tried its level best to break his spirit and make him repent for his actions. But these revolutionaries were built differently. They were made to lie down on ice slabs and beaten by leather hunters. But still, that torture, that abuse, and that struggle didn’t break their spirit, even if it broke their bodies. Lohia, in real life, was at times at loggerheads with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

Conflicts between two ideologies did not come in the way of one’s duty towards the nation, unlike in today’s time. Both of them wanted India to prosper, but they had a different outlook about what path should be followed. Lohia was the one who introduced the concept of Sapta Kranti, where he wanted to fight against vices such as casteism, sexism, and other societal exploitations. It could be said that Lohia’s ideologies aligned with what the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) stood for. They both believed that true freedom couldn’t be achieved until we resolved the conflicts that plague our society. Lohia and others were released in 1946, and even after coming out, they didn’t stop contributing to the independence movement. It is true that Ram Manohar Lohia deeply valued what Usha Mehta and others were able to achieve. We don’t know if he actually went and talked to Usha’s father, as shown in Ae Watan Mere Watan, but he knew what that young girl had to sacrifice in order to participate in the Indian independence movement. Lohia passed away in 1967, and one could say that he was one of those people who stood by his ideals till the very end. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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