Gail Omvedt, Anti-Caste Scholar and Activist Passes Away

Her work that centered around the issues of caste, class, and gender has been influential in the field of sociology, caste studies, and South Asian studies among others.

omvedt

Gail Omvedt an American-born Indian scholar, sociologist, and human rights activist passed away at an age of 81 on Wednesday evening in her village, Kesegaon, Maharashtra.

As a Ph.D. student of Sociology, she came to study caste and Mahatma Phule’s movement in Maharashtra but was deeply affected by the existing caste realities and practices of untouchability in India to an extent that Omvedt settled down in this country to work. Later on, Omvedt co-founded Shramik Mukti Dal with her husband and activist Bharat Patankar.

“Scholars study her books to understand the question of caste and untouchability, and also to change the caste system,” wrote Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, a political theorist and social activist remembering Dr. Gail Omvedt for Wire.

Her work that centered around the issues of caste, class, and gender has been influential in the field of sociology, caste studies, and South Asian studies among others. Her scholarly work was done parallel to her dedication to work closely with people’s movements including those raising questions of the working class, caste, and women’s rights.

“Dr. Omvedt was one of modern India’s most original thinkers. She did not let feminists forget that caste and class must be spoken of, along with gender at all times. Time is yet to produce another scholar and incisive and capacious thinker like her,” the Dalit Intellectual Collective in a statement said.

Upon hearing the news of her passing away, academicians, students, social activists, journalists, and politicians took to social media to remember her and extend their condolences.

Prakash Ambedkar, a politician, lawyer, writer, and the grandson of Babasaheb Ambedkar also tweeted in her remembrance.

“We cannot thank you enough for your contributions to the anti-caste/Ambedkarite movement, the immense knowledge and inspiration you have left us. Your legacy of social justice activism will be carried forward,” researcher and Supreme Court lawyer Kiruba Munusamy wrote.

All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch expressed condolences on her death and wrote ” Her absence will be an irreplaceable loss for Dalit feminist movement but Gail’s thoughts will stay with us. Jai Bhim!”

“Dr. Gail Omvedt was a prolific writer and a powerful social scientist who brought to the fore Phule-Ambedkar’s legacy in the context of rising social movements in the post-emergency period. Gail’s close association with grass-roots movements of rural women- farmers, forest dwellers, and women-headed households and her involvement in the newly formed women’s rights movement during the late 1970s were captured in her engaging and inspiring first-person account in her book, ‘We Shall Smash this Prison‘,”  The Indian Express quoted Dr. Vibhuti Patel, Vice President of Indian Association for Women’s studies.

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