Gail Omvedt, an anti-caste crusader, scholar and prolific writer who championed the reason for India’s marginalized communities and was a frontrunner within the nation’s feminist motion, died on Aug. 25 at her residence within the western state of Maharashtra. She was 80.
Her dying was confirmed by her daughter, Prachi Patankar, who didn’t specify a trigger.
Ms. Omvedt, whose dying was extensively reported within the Indian information media, was a sociologist who helped pioneer the research of caste techniques in South Asia, drawing wider consideration to the lives of the Dalits, the oppressed caste as soon as extra generally referred to as the untouchables.
She moved to India within the Seventies, taught at universities there and wrote greater than a dozen books, together with “Understanding Caste: From Buddha to Ambedkar And Past” and a biography of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the first writer of the Indian structure.
She was additionally a lifelong activist who selected to dwell amongst these she labored with and wrote about in Maharashtra, the second most populated state in India. She spoke flawless Marathi, the native language, and spent appreciable time doing work in poor communities preventing caste oppression in rural areas.
“She took me to areas unknown and launched me to Dalit actions new for me,” stated Ruth Manorama, the pinnacle of the nonprofit group Nationwide Federation of Dalit Ladies, referring to her fellow Dalits in India’s caste-based hierarchy. “She was the motivator, influencer, a terrific organizer and a scholar with no preconceived notions of her topic.”
Gail Marie Omvedt was born on Aug. 2, 1941, right into a Scandinavian immigrant household in Minneapolis. Her father, Jack, labored for years as a lawyer for Native People in Minnesota. Her mom, Dorothy, was a homemaker.
After graduating from Carleton Faculty in Minnesota, Ms. Omvedt obtained a Fulbright scholarship in 1963 to check rural communities in India. She went on to the College of California, Berkeley, the place she was energetic in political protests and earned a grasp’s diploma after which a Ph.D. in sociology. She returned to India in 1970 to proceed her analysis for her dissertation on the caste system.
Whereas there, she turned concerned in actions to mobilize hundreds of poorly paid textile mill employees and displaced farmers devastated by drought. Throughout one protest march she met Bharat Patankar, a longtime activist. They married in 1976.
Over time the couple performed an necessary function in bringing consideration to the Maharashtra area’s working class struggles, together with over ladies’s points and agricultural and environmental challenges in addition to caste system constraints.
Ms. Omvedt gave up her American citizenship and have become an Indian citizen in 1983. She started working together with her husband to ascertain Shramik Mukti Dal (Toilers’ Liberation League), a company credited with launching a few of the largest organized mass actions towards injustices skilled by employees in rural India.
By means of that group she launched quite a few feminist campaigns, serving to ladies who had been victims of home violence, for example, and people who had been deserted by their husbands and wanted to seek out sustainable work.
For many years, whereas primarily based at her residence in Kasegaon, a village in rural Maharashtra, Ms. Omvedt collected and translated the texts and work of figures within the anti-caste motion and documented the lives of these round her.
For these learning the caste system and identification politics in India, Ms. Omvedt was a key archivist, chronicler and interpreter, stated Ms. Manorama, the pinnacle of Dalit Ladies.
Along with her daughter, Ms. Omvedt is survived by her husband and a granddaughter.