The New India Foundation announces the six books on the Shortlist for the fourth edition of the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize.

Bangalore, Wednesday, 10th November 2021

One of the most prestigious literary awards in the country, the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize celebrates high-quality non-fiction literature on modern and contemporary India from writers of all nationalities published in the previous calendar year. Instituted in 2018, the prize carries a cash award of INR 15 lakhs and a citation.

This year’s Longlist of twelve extraordinary books covered a variety of themes and subjects showcasing some of the finest non-fiction writing about the world’s largest democracy. The six books shortlisted from this outstanding list of works are those that combine strong research with compelling writing in weaving together unique perspectives that resonated with the NIF Jury.

Highly-researched and eminently readable, the six books on the Shortlist comprise creative and conscious insights into the history of India as it has emerged today: its diversity, difference, heterogeneity, and the very idea of the nation-state itself. Each of these books offers a valuable understanding of the country’s complex past through the lens of the present moment in potentially opening up avenues to address the future.

This year’s NIF Jury includes political scientist and author Niraja Gopal Jayal (Chair), entrepreneur and author Nandan Nilekani; historian and author Srinath Raghavan; historian and author Nayanjot Lahiri; and entrepreneurManish Sabharwal.

Commenting on the Shortlist, the Jury said:

“We hear that COVID has created many challenges for the publishing industry, but our book prize Jury didn’t confront any consequences. Narrowing down to the six-book shortlist from our longlist of twelve books was very hard because so many of the books captured unique and diverse angles of modern India. This shortlist is an intellectual feast of non-fiction reading.”

The six books shortlisted for the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2021 are:

  • The Death Script: Dreams and Delusions in Naxal Country by Ashutosh Bhardwaj (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins Publishers): A searing and stunningly crafted narrative based on the author’s reportage from India’s so-called ‘red corridor’. All sides in the conflict find voice in Bharadwaj’s sensitive treatment, offering poignant reflections on the human predicament in a danger zone: fear and love, betrayal and violence, and above all the yearning for justice.
  • India’s First Dictatorship: The Emergency, 1975-77 by Christophe Jaffrelot & Pratinav Anil (HarperCollins Publishers): A masterful study of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, and her son Sanjay’s role in it. This is a comprehensive and deeply researched book on a dark period of our history, in which democracy was suspended and a constitutional dictatorship was instituted, with little popular resistance.
  • Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism by Dinyar Patel (Harvard University Press): An outstanding biography of Dadabhai Naoroji that illuminates his life and work – from his pioneering critique of imperialism to his engagement in British parliamentary politics, from his building of political alliances in Europe and America to his eventual declaration of self-rule as the only way forward for India.
  • Gandhi in the Gallery: The Art of Disobedience by Sumathi Ramaswamy (Roli Books): A handsome, beautifully illustrated volume that explores how and why Mahatma Gandhi came to be the muse of several modern Indian artists who, by making him visually familiar through their art, have become Gandhi’s conscience-keepers in the present.
  • The Coolie’s Great War: Indian Labour in a Global Conflict 1914-1921 by Radhika Singha (HarperCollins Publishers): A pioneering history of the 550,000 non-combatants in the Indian Army who participated in the First World War as menial labour – porters, construction workers, cooks and water carriers – and on whose largely invisible labour the war effort of the British Empire depended so greatly.
  • Jugalbandi: The BJP Before Modi by Vinay Sitapati (Penguin Random House): An engaging account of the six decades long friendship between Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani, and how their partnership and ideological unity forged the original success of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Kamaladevi NIF Book Prize builds on the New India Foundation’s mission of sponsoring high-quality research and writing on all aspects of independent India. The prize was named after Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, the great patriot and institution-builder who had contributed significantly to the freedom struggle, to the women’s movement, to refugee rehabilitation and to the renewal of handicrafts. Previous winners of the prize include Milan Vaishnav for his remarkable book When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (HarperCollins Publishers) in 2018 and Ornit Shani for her scholarly work How India Became Democratic (Penguin Random House) in 2019. The 2020 Prize was jointly awarded to Amit Ahuja for his outstanding debut Mobilizing the Marginalized: Ethnic Parties Without Ethnic Movements (Oxford University Press) and Jairam Ramesh for his compelling biography of VK Krishna Menon, A Chequered Brilliance (Penguin Random House).

The winner of the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize will be announced on December 1st 2021.