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US-born Dalit scholar Gail Omvedt passes away in Sangli

Sangli (Maharashtra): Dr Gail Omvedt, US-born renowned Dalit researcher, writer on Ambedkarism and the movement for the oppressed classes, 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.

Gail Omvedt

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray expressed grief over the demise of Dr. Omvedt and recalled her services to the social movements.

“She made immense contributions in various fields like rights and justice for women and underprivileged, literature, social fields, besides being a researcher and scholar,” Thackeray said in a message.

All India Kisan Sabha President Dr. Ashok Dhawale described her as “a progressive intellectual-cum-activist par excellence” and offered condolences to the bereaved family.

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’s liberation and empowerment, the rights of tribals 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.

The aide said that Dr. Omvedt was involved with various social campaigns across India for Dalits, anti-caste, environment, land and water rights, and was active with SMD, Stree Multi Sangharsh Chalval and Shetkari Mahila Aghadi which works for land rights for women farmers.

A prolific writer, she penned over a dozen books on a wide range of social issues, prominent among them being “We Shall Smash This Prison: Indian Women In Struggle” (1979), “Violence Against Women: New Movements And New Theories In India” (1991), “Buddhism in India: Challenging Brahmanism and Caste” (2003), “Ambedkar: Towards an Enlightened India” (2005), “Seeking Begumpura: The Social Vision of Anticaste Intellectuals” (2009), “Understanding Caste: From Buddha To Ambedkar And Beyond” (2011), “Songs of Tukoba” with Bharat Patankar (2012), and more.

She was conferred several awards and honours like Savitribai Phule Puraskar (2002), Dr. Ambedkar Chetna Award (2003), Matoshree Bhimabai Ambedkar Award (2012), and served as a visiting faculty for many national and international universities.

Dr. Omvedt’s last rites shall be performed on Thursday morning at the Krantiveer Bapuji Patankar Sanstha campus in Sangli, the aide said.

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