Gandhian Usha Mehta passes away

Veteran Gandhian Dr Usha Mehta passed away on Friday night, her family said in Mumbai. She was 80.

Veteran Gandhian Dr Usha Mehta passed away on Friday night, her family said in Mumbai. She was 80.

Mehta, who was very active till her last, felt uneasy and breathless around 9 pm and collapsed before she could be taken to hospital, her nephew Rohit Mehta said.

A Gandhian to the core, Mehta was very active during the Quit India Movement of 1942 and ran an underground radio to spread Gandhiji`s message of `Do or Die.`

The funeral will take place on Saturday at 2 pm, sources added. A spinster, the Padma Vibhushan awardee, was staying with her nephews in Grant Road area of South Central Mumbai.

Born on March 25, 1920 at Saras village in Surat district of Gujarat, Mehta completed her schooling in Kheda and Bharuch and came to Mumbai in 1933 along with her judge father and took admission in Chandaramji High School.

It was in her childhood that she met Mahatma Gandhi at Olpad town and became an ardent follower.

The high point of her career was the Quit India Movement of 1942. Mehta, who had arrived in Mumbai from Delhi, in a daring act unfurled the Indian national movement`s tricolour at Gowalia tank ground, renamed as August Kranti Maidan, on August 9, 1942 when the entire Congress leadership including Mahatma Gandhi was placed under arrest by the British.

She launched an underground radio to spread Gandhiji`s ‘Quit India’ ultimatum to British and his exhortation to his own people to ‘Do or Die’, to achieve the goal of complete independence from the foreign yoke.

However, soon Mehta was arrested and was jailed at Yerawada Central Prison in Pune, where she spent next four years in incarceration.

Mehta was the first political activist to be released from Yerawada in 1946 when Morarji Desai, who had become the home minister in the provincial government of the then Bombay state, signed papers for her release.

She later pursued her post-graduate studies and got a PHD from University of Mumbai in 1953 on social and political thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi.

She was also conferred with honorary D Litt by the SNDT Women`s University for her outstanding contribution in the social field.

Mehta soon joined the university as a professor and for many years held the position of Head of Department of Politics. She retired from the University service in 1975.

After her retirement, Mehta became closely associated with `Mani Bhavan,` where Gandhiji used to live during his stay in Mumbai and which now houses a museum on the Mahatma, and `Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.` She was also associated with numerous Gandhian institutions and associations all over the country.

In recognition of her service to the nation, she was honoured with Padma Vibhushan by the president two years ago.

Mehta also wrote a number of books, mainly on Gandhiji and his thoughts. Her book on great Indian women - `Bharat Ki Mahan Nariyan,` is wellknown.

Bureau Report

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