On Saturday morning, women's rights activists across the nation woke up to the sad news of Kamla Bhasin's demise. The poet, feminist icon and author passed away at 3 a.m on September 25th at the age of 75.
While many know her as a staunch advocate of women's rights, very few are aware of her pioneering efforts in the women's movement in India and other South Asian countries. Activist Kavita Srivastava, who broke the news on social media, called her demise a, "big setback for the women's movement in India."
Kamla Bhasin - The author
Often, deep reflection on society and the injustice meted out, on the basis of gender, caste and creed find their outlet in words. Bhasin authored several books on the subjects and issues that have been close to her heart; gender theory, feminism. Many of her books have been widely translated, collectively into more than 30 languages.
Kamla Bhasin - The feminist
Much before the word 'feminism' found its way into armchair or social media activism, Bhasin, in the 70s, was already a prominent voice in the women's movement in India. In 2002, she founded the feminist network called 'Sangat'.
Aiming to be the engine of social change, Sangat works with underprivileged women from rural and tribal backgrounds, often using non-academic tools like street plays, songs, art and other cultural activities. The slogan 'Azaadi' which became both iconic and a controversial campaign at the protest sites, was first popularised by Bhasin as a feminist chant against patriarchy.
Kamla Bhasin - Her ideology
One of her last interviews happened to be a talk at a TEDx event last year; where she spoke about not one, but several layers and kinds of inequalities that exist in this world: "The tiny virus corona has actually been like a magnifying glass, showing us the other social and economic viruses plaguing us. Virus which the powerful have created and continue to nurture them and spread them to control the world, and to control our words. The first such virus is patriarchy, which has messed up the lives of millions actually, women, men, trans genders, homosexuals. Connected to it is the toxic virus of masculinity, some women suffer from it too."
As is the case usually, her blunt and thought-provoking words often did not go well with many establishments, organisations and even governments. It is not just gender, but economic and social disparities too that she often called out in her speeches.
If only the world paid heed. RIP Kamla Bhasin. You truly did your bit.