The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize announces joint winners for 2020

Date Published: 10 Dec 2020

The prestigious Book Prize is jointly awarded to Mobilizing the Marginalised: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements by Amit Ahuja, and A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of VK Krishna Menon by Jairam Ramesh

The jury of the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2020 has for this year announced two winners - Amit Ahuja, for Mobilizing the Marginalized: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements, and Jairam Ramesh for A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon.

The two winners were selected from a diverse shortlist of six books covering a century of modern Indian history and encompassing several genres. The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Book Prize recognises and celebrates excellence in non-fiction writings on modern/ contemporary India by writers from all nationalities.

The winners were selected by a six-member jury panel including political scientist and author Niraja Gopal Jayal (Jury Chair), historian and critically acclaimed author Ramachandra Guha; entrepreneur and author Nandan Nilekani; historian and author Srinath Raghavan; historian and author Nayanjot Lahiri; and Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, Teamlease Services.

The 2020 winners will share the prize money of 15 lacs for their respective books and will each receive the Book Prize trophy.

The Jury citation for the two winners for the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2020 reads:

Mobilizing the Marginalized: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements (Oxford University Press) by Amit Ahuja is an outstanding first book by a young scholar. Through extensive field research in four states, Ahuja unravels an intriguing puzzle: why is it that Dalit ethnic parties perform poorly in states where their social mobilization has historically been strong, yet perform well in states where such mobilization has historically been weak? He also shows how the social mobilization of Dalits, dividing their support across parties, results in superior welfare outcomes than when they vote as a bloc for one ethnic party. This is an elegantly written and accessible work of scholarship that richly illuminates the relationship between social movements and political parties in redeeming the promise of Indian democracy for marginalized groups.”

A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon (Penguin Random House) by Jairam Ramesh is an engaging biography of an important supporting player in Indian politics, whose career spanned decades of political work, first in Britain and later in India. The book provides fascinating insights into the personal and public life of Krishna Menon: his friendships and animosities, his foibles and strengths, and the multiple facets of his life as editor, publisher, lawyer, councillor, propagandist, diplomat, and cabinet minister. Ramesh chronicles Menon’s relentless campaign for India’s freedom in Britain and the ups and downs of his close relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru. The opprobrium surrounding his role in the disastrous (from an Indian point of view) conflict with China in 1962 have tended to obscure from public memory his diplomatic achievements, especially his celebrated performance at the United Nations in the 1950s, and this book places on record the evidence on all these issues without partisan judgment. Ramesh has delved deep into new archival materials to produce a compelling portrait of a brilliant, complicated, and controversial man, whose public life came to a rather tragic end.”

About the 2020 Winners

Amit Ahuja is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research focuses on the processes of inclusion and exclusion in multi-ethnic societies. He has studied this within the context of ethnic parties and movements, military organization, inter-caste marriage, and skin color preferences in South Asia. Professor Ahuja's research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Institute of Indian Studies, the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, the Hellman Family Foundation, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of Michigan.

Jairam Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha MP, was Union minister between 2006 and 2014, holding several key portfolios including environment and forests. He is the author of several well-known books including Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature and Intertwined Lives: P.N. Haksar and Indira Gandhi.

About the NIF Book Prize 

Established in 2018, 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 Book Prize celebrates high-quality, non-fiction literature by emerging writers from all nationalities, published in the previous calendar year. 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. In 2018, the prize was awarded to Milan Vaishnav for his remarkable debut -When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (HarperCollins Publishers). Ornit Shani was awarded the prize in 2019 for her scholarly work- How India Became Democratic (Penguin Random House)

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