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Radio 1942: A story of uncensored news

NEW DELHI, AUG. 25. Gandhiji's message to Quit India activists, news of killing of 306 soldiers in Meerut and atrocities on Indian women by Britishers could be known to the world thanks to an ``uncertain'' Congress radio, which played an important role in the freedom struggle some 62 years ago.

The ``secret'' Congress Radio took up the challenge to disseminate the much needed information to the masses to sustain a ``leaderless movement''. It took steps even ahead of the then radio journalism and reported first hand happenings of the worst affected events, historian Gautam Chatterjee says in his book ``Secret Congress Broadcasts and Storming Railway Tracks During Quit India Movement''.

However, it could not sustain itself long and was detected by the police some three months after its launch on August 27.

``The idea of the Congress radio was mooted immediately after the arrest of its leaders on August 9, 1942. It aimed at keeping people informed of the progress of Quit India Movement besides propagating secularism and tired to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity,'' he says.

During the British regime, all the news coming from outside into India and that sent out of India were censored. The news gathered by its reporters was allowed to be broadcast before it was censored by the Censor Officer of the British government, he says.

By August 26, 1942 the transmission system was made ready and the top floor flat of the Sea-View, then in Bombay, was hired for broadcasting the Congress programme and it was on the air on August 27, 1942 on 41.78 metres wavelength, he says.

The Congress' broadcasting station was mainly being operated from Mumbai and Nasik. But many times it was shifted to evade police raids and detection, Chatterjee says.

``It started its broadcast from Sea-View Building in Chowpatty. Thereafter the transmitters were shifted to Rantan Mahal at Walkeshwar Road,'' he says.

Furthermore, the Congress Radio went on air from Ajit Vila, Laburnum Road, Laxmi Bhuvan, Sandhurst Road, Parekh Wadi Building at Girgaum Back Road and finally from Paradise Bunglow near Mahalaxmi Temple until it was detected by police.

Thirst for uncensored news was at its peak, as India, along with the whole world, was making news in 1942 - the year of Indian revolt and a year of the Second World War, he says.

Considering the senstivity, Congress leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia and Vithaldas Madhavji Khakar were given the responsibility to organise broadcasting messages and programmes during the movement, he says.

Khakar was the chief organiser of the Congress Radio Enterprises and was answerable to Lohia, he says.

According to the old records, Vitthal Rao Patvardhan brought a broadcasting equipment of the Congress Radio (which Madhav Limaye called Azad Radio) to Nasik. It was kept in Sankaracharya Math from where the ``Azad Radio'' went on air. But perhaps fearing police raid, the transmission equipment was immersed in the Godavari River, he says.

``At those dark hours of new black-out, the Congress Radio went on air and worked as an inspiration for the masses. It spread the message of secularism, internationalism, brotherhood and freedom," he says.

One such message flashed on October 28, 1942, based on a true statement reads: ``While I was going to my grandparents' house an English soldier stooped me. I went to a house nearby where he followed me. There was a old man in the house in whose presence the soldier dragged me out and outraged me. I was nine-months pregnant...'' From October 8, 1942, the Special Branch of the CID commenced the monitoring of the Congress Radio broadcasts. Police stenographers were used to record these broadcasts, says Chatterjee.

The daily report of these broadcasts continued up to the seizure of the set. The texts of daily Congress radio broadcasts, which have been left behind for posterity, project national commitment to secularism and internationalism and concern for rural people as well, he adds.


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