Who is Gail Omvedt: An American sociologist who dedicated her life to research in studies of India’s marginalised and worked relentlessly for their upliftment, Dr Gail Omvedt passed away at the age of 81 on Tuesday at her home in Kasegaon, Maharashtra.
She originally hailed from Minneapolis and completed her education in the US. After her marriage to activist Bharat Patankar in the 1970s, Dr Omvedt obtained Indian citizenship and was residing with his family in their Sangli village ever since. Her mother-in-law was the notable Communist leader and feminist activist Indumati Patankar.
A recipient of multiple awards recognising her pathbreaking contribution to activism, writing and academia, Dr Omvedt was among the most prominent voices rallying for an equal, empowered society. She was deeply involved in grassroots anti-caste and women’s liberations movements in Maharashtra, closely working with the rural stakeholders.
In a statement mourning her death, the Dalit Intellectual Collective said, “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.”
Seeker Of Equality: Why You Should Know Who Is Gail Omvedt
With Patankar, Dr Omvedt founded the Shramik Mukti Dal, an organisation committed to the causes of downtrodden communities, rural projects and the fundamental rights of caste, class and gender-oppressed peoples.
As a PhD scholar, her thesis on The Non-Brahman Movement in Western India was seminal in introducing the ideologies of Maharashtrian thinkers and writers to the world. Some of her other famous published works include We Shall Smash This Prison: Indian Women in Struggle, Dalits And The Democratic Revolution, and Seeking Begumpura: The Social Vision of Anticaste Intellectuals.
Dr Omvedt was an integral part of the local society in and around Sangli, and attended “all meetings of the united front of women’s liberation movement in Maharashtra,” veteran feminist Dr Vibhuti Patel said, as per Indian Express.
The late scholar was a staunch critic of Brahminical patriarchy and caste oppression, establishing a link between such subjugation. Principles of the Marx-Phule-Ambedkarism tripartite ran deep through her writing as well as activism stances.
In recent years, she was serving as a consultant on gender and caste issues for UN programs, NGOs and various schools.