Real-Life Usha Mehta In ‘Ae Watan Mere Watan’: How Did She Die?


Usha Mehta is not a name known by the masses, but Ae Watan Mere Watan made sure that we understood that just because she was not as popular as her contemporaries doesn’t mean that her sacrifice was any less. Usha Mehta was a real-life revolutionary, and like all the other kids of her generation, she idolized the man who walked wearing khadi and preached the doctrine of “ahimsa,” aka non-violence. Usha was very young when she shouted, “Simon, go back” at the top of her lungs. She wanted to do something for her country. She wanted to contribute in whatever way she could. She wanted to live and breathe in a free India. She wanted to stand up for the oppressed, and she wanted to teach a lesson to the perpetrators, who in this case were the British Raj. But before doing all that, she had to fight with one of her own. She was at loggerheads with her own father, and a lot of times, she stayed quiet and didn’t argue with him because she knew that he loved her. Had it not been her own father, Usha would have made him privy to reality every time he spoke about how good the British Raj was. Usha was the kind of person who had a lot of trust in her own abilities and also in the people of her country. She knew that she was a woman living in a patriarchal society and that she would have to pay a huge cost for trying to do something that could help her nation. But even when she knew that the odds were not in her favor, it didn’t bog down her spirits. So, let’s find out what happened in Usha Mehta’s life, how she contributed to the Indian Freedom Struggle, and what creative liberties have been taken by the makers. 

Did Usha’s father not want her to join the revolution? 

It is rightly depicted in the film that Usha’s father was a judge in the British Raj, and that’s why he didn’t want her to be a part of the Indian independence movement. We can’t even imagine how tough it would have been for a young Usha who wanted to follow Gandhi and fight colonial rule. Usha’s love for her nation was so great that she didn’t mind going against her own father. We don’t know if those conversations that we saw in the series happened in real life between her and her father or if they were a work of imagination, but we can understand the kind of conflict she would have gone through. She had all the privileges one could ask for, but still, she decided to leave that life behind and live and die for her own country. Though the film showed that Usha’s father didn’t support her until she went to prison in 1942, in reality, his stance changed after he retired from his post in 1930. It might have taken him some time to understand what his daughter did, but in the end, he did realize that it was not an easy task to be so selfless and devoted to one’s cause. 

Why did Usha start the Congress radio? 

As shown in the series, Usha and some of her close associates started the Congress radio back in 1942. Usha knew that the government had put a ban on all the media houses that were critical of the national policies or openly spoke about how the British Raj oppressed the Indians. Usha knew that the narrative was completely controlled by the government, and she wanted to find a way to tackle that. So that’s when Usha started the secret radio operations, and after that, there was no stopping her. She worked together with Ram Manohar Lohia and many other revolutionaries, and in a very short time span, she became a headache for the government. Usha only operated that secret radio service for three months, and the British Raj realized the kind of threat she posed and the kind of damage she was capable of doing. It was true that they changed their base of operations every day because the government had found a way to track their location. On November 12, 1942, Usha and all the other people working with her at the base were caught by the police. Usha was given a 4-year sentence, and she was sent to Yerwada Prison in Pune.

Was Usha tortured by the British officers? 

The CID interrogated her for almost half a year, after which she was sent to Yerwada Prison to serve a 4-year sentence. She was tortured during that time, and the government asked her to take the names of the people who were involved with her and become a state witness. Usha knew that she would get all sorts of benefits if she did that, but as shown in Ae Watan Mere Watan, she didn’t give in. She endured, and she made it a point that she did not reveal any information about any revolutionary. It is also a true fact that Usha took a vow of celibacy, as she wanted to devote all her time to the freedom struggle.

What Ae Watan Mere Watan didn’t show was that after independence, Usha Mehta was not happy with the state of things in the political landscape. She acknowledged the achievements of the government, but she still felt that it wasn’t the India of their dreams. There was discrimination on the basis of caste and religion, there was widespread poverty, there was corruption, and, most importantly, there was greed for power. Bhagat Singh once said that if we didn’t resolve all those issues that plague our nation, then a time would come when the country would get rid of the British, but the country would burn in its own fire. On August 15, 1947, Usha Mehta was not able to attend the ceremonies, but she wished and hoped that her nation would thrive, and the government would work for the welfare of the people. These were idealistic people who shared a very deep connection with their motherland. It was because of those ideals that Usha always felt that the sitting government could never be what people like her had imagined it to be back in the day. Usha Mehta passed away in the year 2000, leaving a great legacy behind her. Until she took her last breath, she believed that, as a nation, we could do much better.

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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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