Eminent women's rights activist, poet and author Kamla Bhasin passed away on Saturday.
Activist Kavita Srivastava said on Twitter that 75-year-old 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 pic.twitter.com/aQA6QidVEl
— Kavita Srivastava (@kavisriv) September 25, 2021
Bhasin had reportedly been diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. Bhasin, an outspoken champion of women's rights in India and South Asia since the 1970s, was best known for her work with Sangat: A Feminist Network and her poem Kyunki main ladki hoon, mujhe padhna hai.
Born on 24 April 1946 in the district of Mandi Bahauddin, which is now in Pakistan, her family shifted to Rajasthan in India after the Partition.
According to the Hindustan Times, Bhasin studied sociology at the University of Münster in West Germany.
She later returned to India and worked with Udaipur-based NGO Seva Mandir, which works on rural development and women’s empowerment. In 2002, after quitting her job at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, she founded the South Asian feminist network Sangat, which works with underprivileged women from rural and tribal communities, often using non-literary tools such as plays, songs and art.
Bhasin also authored several books on gender theory, feminism and understanding patriarchy, many of which have been translated into more than 30 languages.
Bhasin is also attributed for bringing the 'Azaadi' chant to India, which Pakistani feminists first used to protest against the Zia-ul-Haq regime. In February 2019, Bhasin had told The Quint that she had first heard the chant for 'azaadi' in 1984 among feminists in Pakistan, who were vocal against the regime of Zia-ul-Haq.
"Thirty-five years ago, I went to Pakistan. Pakistan at that time was ruled by Zia-ul-Haq. The first group that rose up against Zia-ul-Haq was not a political party, it was a group of Pakistani feminists. I witnessed one such meeting, and that's where they chanted it.
At a 2013 One Billion Rising event in New Delhi, she recited the famous Azadi chant to much acclaim and public participation.
She also spoke of a need of a cultural revolution in the country. She, in a 2013 Hindu interview, had said, "Often religion is used as a shield to justify patriarchy. When you question something, you are told, ‘yeh toh hamara sanskar hai, riwaaj hai (This is our culture, our traditions)'. And when this is done, it means logic has ended, belief has come in."
Following her demise, several took to Twitter to pay tribute to the feminist icon.
Kamla Bhasin was not only a women's rights activist, but also a philanthropist who set up & helped setting up many fine public Interest institutions like Jagori in HP & School for democracy in Rajasthan. She will be missed by many. May her soul rest in peace https://t.co/nst3qjnwYZ — Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) September 25, 2021
Thanks for all you did, Kamla Bhasin.
You will be missed. pic.twitter.com/PPa8zsH9ZF
— Neha Dixit (@nehadixit123) September 25, 2021
How to say 'Alvida'to you?
Kamla Bhasin, dear friend, just passed away. Around 3am today, 25th Sept. A big setback for the women's movement. One of the pioneers of the movement, built the South Asian Feminist movement.
In Sisterhood, which is in deep grief.
— Apoorvanand अपूर्वानंद (@Apoorvanand__) September 25, 2021
Inputs from agencies