Gail Omvedt, Scholar In Dalit Issues, Dies

American-born Indian scholar on Dalit politics and related issues, Dr Gail Omvedt died after a prolonged illness at her home in a Maharashtra village on (Wednesday) August 25. She was 81. Her husband Bharat Patankar, announced her death, reported ‘The Indian Express’ from Pune.

Ms. Gail had come as a student to India from the U.S. in the 1970s for further studies here, and subsequently settled down in Kasegaon in Satara district of Maharashtra, where she worked on social projects with her husband Patankar, a Marxist scholar.

She was later head of the Sociology department and occupied the Phule-Ambedkar Chair in Sociology at the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPUU).

Noted for scholarly writings on Dalit politics and history, women’s struggles and anti-caste movement in India, Gail did first rate research on social and cultural movements in the country. Gail Omvedt was granted Indian citizenship in 1983. She studied in depth about the great social reformer Maharashtra produced, Jyotiba Phule. Many of her articles were published in the ‘Economic and Political Weekly (EPW)’.

Working for the uplift of deserted women in Sangli and Satara districts of Maharashtra, Gail Omvedt co-founded the ‘Shramik Mukti Dal’ along with her husband in the early 1980s’.

“Dr. Gail Omvedt dedicated her life to the propagation of Phule-Ambedkar movement, women’s liberation, abandoned women, Dalits & Buddhist movement and remained a dedicated activist to the end. My heartfelt tributes on behalf of entire Ambedkar family to Dr. Gail Omvedt,” Prakash Ambedkar said in a tweet.

Gail wrote extensively on Dalit and Women’s movements in the country, besides on problems of the peasantry and Dalit visions for a just society, as shaped by the ideas of the late Dr B.R. Ambedkar and Jyothiba Phule, observed V. Geetha, a Chennai-based social historian and activist, in an obit piece on the scholar.

The CPI(M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury, Historian Ramachandra Guha, among others, expressed their deep condolences on the demise of Gail Omvedt.