Books on Mahatma Gandhi as muse, Dadabhai Naoroji’s life in NIF Prize shortlist

The jury termed the shortlist an "intellectual feast of non-fiction reading".

Books on topics such as Mahatma Gandhi as muse of Indian artists, non-combatants in the Indian Army who participated in World War I, the BJP before Narendra Modi, Naxalism, Emergency, and Dadabhai Naoroji’s life have made it to the shortlist of this year’s Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize.

The New India Foundation announced the shortlist for the fourth edition of the prize here on Wednesday.

The six books are: The Death Script: Dreams and Delusions in Naxal Country by Ashutosh Bhardwaj (HarperCollins), India’s First Dictatorship: The Emergency, 1975-77 by Christophe Jaffrelot and Pratinav Anil (HarperCollins), Dinyar Patel’s Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism (Harvard University Press), Gandhi in the Gallery: The Art of Disobedience by Sumathi Ramaswamy (Roli Books), The Coolie’s Great War: Indian Labour in a Global Conflict 1914-1921 by Radhika Singha (HarperCollins) and Vinay Sitapati’s Jugalbandi: The BJP Before Modi (Penguin Random House).

The winner will be announced on December 1.

The jury termed the shortlist an “intellectual feast of non-fiction reading”.

It 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 12 books was very hard because so many of the books captured unique and diverse angles of modern India.”

This year’s jury includes political scientist Niraja Gopal Jayal (chair), entrepreneurs Nandan Nilekani and Manish Sabharwal; and historians Srinath Raghavan and Nayanjot Lahiri.

Instituted in 2018, the prize carries a cash award of Rs 15 lakh and a citation, and celebrates non-fiction literature published in the previous calendar year by emerging writers of all nationalities in modern and contemporary India.

The prize is named after Chattopadhyay, who contributed significantly to the freedom struggle, to the women’s movement, to refugee rehabilitation and to the renewal of Indian theatre and handicrafts.

Last year, the prize was jointly awarded to Amit Ahuja and Jairam Ramesh. In 2019, it was given to Ornit Shani and in 2018 to Milan Vaishnav.

“This year’s longlist of 12 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,” the NIF said in a statement.

“Highly-researched and eminently readable, the six books 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,” it said.

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