Dalit scholar Dr. Gail Omvedt | Twitter/@dayakamPRAdvertisement
Scholar extraordinary & the co-founder of Ambedkar Studies, #GailOmvedt is no more. Gail dedicated her life to bringing forward the subaltern history by revolutinising the Phule – Ambedkarite scholarship to a greater heights with a rich & detailed analysis.
Academician Dr. Gail Omvedt passed away on Wednesday at the age of 81 in Sangli’s Kasegaon. An American-born Indian scholar, she authored books on Dalit politics, women’s struggles, and the anti-caste movement.
Omvedt co-founded Shramik Mukti Dal with her husband and activist Bharat Patankar.
As a college student in the U.S., Omvedt was part of the anti-war movement there. She visited India during her doctoral research work to study social movements here and studied the work of Mahatma Phule. Her thesis was on ‘Non-Brahmin Movement in Western India’.
After deciding to live in India, her association with veteran social worker Indutai Patankar led to her studying and participating in women’s struggles in the country.
r. 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‘,” Dr. Vibhuti Patel, Vice President of Indian Association for Women’s studies said
“During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s we worked together in several padayatras, rallies, national conferences, gatherings in rural and tribal areas, travelled together to attend conferences in Nandurbar, shared rooms in seminars and conferences which gave us the opportunity to engage in lively discussions political economy of caste-class-ethnic issues determining women’s predicaments, property rights of tribal and rural women, need for rural-urban solidarity and support. She attended and spoke in (her own style of) Marathi all meetings of the united front of women’s liberation movement in Maharashtra along with her mother-in-law, veteran feminist Com. Indutai Patankar,” Patel further added.
The Dalit Intellectual Collective in a statement said: “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.”
Gail Omvedt took forward Eleanor Zelliot’s work on Babasaheb Ambedkar and placed it in the context of Mahatma Phule and the Satyashodhak Samaj’s work and thought while pointing to his singularity.
Renowned US-born researcher, writer on Ambedkarism and Dalit movement Dr. Gail Omvedt passed away following a brief illness at Kasegaon, here early on Wednesday, said an aide.
She was 81 and is survived by her husband Dr. Bharat Patankar, a daughter Prachi, son-in-law Tejaswi and grand-daughter Nia, who have settled in the US.–
Born in Minneapolis in the US state of Minnesota, Dr. Omvedt came to India after completing her higher studies and plunged herself into the various social movements for the Dalits, poor and downtrodden, farmers, women and other public causes.
The Omvedt-Patankar couple founded the Shramik Mukti Dal in the early-1980s, while she became an Indian citizen around 1983.
She authored several books on various social subjects, taught in colleges and universities and penned columns for various newspapers, worked for the United Nations Development Programme, Oxfam NOVIB, and other international bodies.
Dr. Omvedt’s last rites shall be performed on Thursday morning at the Krantiveer Bapuji Patankar Sanstha campus in Sangli, the aide said.
Her subsequent work especially on Indian utopian thought, Seeking Begumpura, was unique. She brought to Buddhism a utopian lens.
Omvedt authored over 25 books, including In Colonial Society – Non-Brahmin Movement in Western India, Seeking Begampura, Buddhism in India, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule, Dalit and the Democratic Revolution, Understanding Caste, We Will Smash the Prison and New Social Movement in India.
She was the head of the Phule-Ambedkar Chair in Pune University, department of sociology; professor at Institute of Asian studies, Kopenhegan; Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at New Delhi, among others.
The last rites will be conducted on August 26 at Kasegaon in Sangli district