Eminent women's rights activist, poet and author Kamla Bhasin passed away on Saturday, September 25. She was 75. Activist Kavita Srivastava said on Twitter that Bhasin breathed her last around 3 am. "Kamla Bhasin, our dear friend, passed away around 3am today 25th Sept. This is a big setback for the women's movement in India and the South Asian region. She celebrated life whatever the adversity. Kamla you will always live in our hearts. In Sisterhood, which is in deep grief (sic)," Kavita Srivastava tweeted.
Kamla has been a prominent voice in the women's movement in India and other South Asian countries since the 1970s. Born in 1946 in Shahindanwaali village in Punjab, which is now a part of Pakistan, Kamla studied in Rajasthan, and then in University of Munster in Germany. She returned to India thereafter, and started working at Seva Mandir in Rajasthan, where she met late journalist and activist Baljit Malik, whom she later married. The couple divorced, reportedly after instances of domestic violence and infidelity.
She also worked with the United Nations at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Bangkok, Thailand till 1975 and then with Gonoshashtya Kendra, a rural public health organisation in Bangladesh in 1976. When Kamla returned to India, she had a significant part in furthering the movement for women in the aftermath of the Mathura rape case where two policemen had allegedly sexually assaulted a Dalit woman at a police station.
More recently, Kamla also found herself in a controversy in May 2021, after she described feminist activism as not being about race, caste, trans issues or ecology. She later apologised for the same after it was pointed out that her remarks were exclusionary.
Kamla is known for founding Sangat – A Feminist Network, in 2002 to work with disadvantaged women from rural and tribal communities by means of plays, songs, art etc. She also wrote many books on gender theory and feminism – such as Understanding Gender, What is Patriarchy – that have been translated into over 30 languages.