From a pictorial biography of MK Gandhi to the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party before Narendra Modi, a diversity of themes runs across the longlist of the New India Foundation's Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2021.
The fourth edition of the prize, which confers a cash award of ₹15 lakh along with a citation to the winner, celebrates excellence in non-fiction writing on subjects related to modern and contemporary India. The longlist of 12 books this year reflects the range of narratives that lies at the heart of the country's cultural, political, and social milieu, which are finding readers beyond the academic presses now.
Anthropologist Michiel Baas' study of India's fitness industry and its impact on perceptions of masculinity among the middle classes, musician TM Krishna's book on mrdangam makers, and social scientist Arkotong Longkumer's account of the growing influence of Hindutva in India's Northeast are some of the books in this year's longlist, selected by a panel of jury including political scientist Niraja Gopal Jayal, entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani, historian Nayanjot Lahiri, entrepreneur Manish Sabharwal, and historian Srinath Raghavan.
The 2021 Longlist (in alphabetical order) is:
• Muscular India: Masculinity, Mobility and the New Middle Class by Michiel Baas (Context, Westland)
• The Death Script: Dreams and Delusions in Naxal Country by Ashutosh Bhardwaj (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins Publishers)
• India’s First Dictatorship: The Emergency, 1975-77 by Christophe Jaffrelot and Pratinav Anil (HarperCollins Publishers)
• Brand New Nation: Capitalist Dreams and Nationalist Designs in Twenty-First-Century India by Ravinder Kaur (Stanford University Press)
• India’s Founding Moment: The Constitution of a Most Surprising Democracy by Madhav Khosla (Harvard University Press)
• Sebastian & Sons: A Brief History of Mrdangam Makers by T.M. Krishna (Context, Westland)
• The Greater India Experiment: Hindutva and the Northeast by Arkotong Longkumer (Stanford University Press)
• I Could Not Be Hindu: The Story of a Dalit in the RSS by Bhanwar Meghwanshi; Trans. Nivedita Menon (Navayana)
• Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism by Dinyar Patel (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 Publishers)
• Jugalbandi: The BJP Before Modi by Vinay Sitapati (Penguin Random House)
The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize, which was initiated in 2018, builds on the New India Foundation’s mission of encouraging research and writing on all aspects of the world’s largest democracy. The prize was named in honour of the legacy of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, patriot and institution-builder, who contributed significantly to the freedom struggle, the women’s movement, refugee rehabilitation and the renewal of Indian theatre and handicrafts.
Last year, the prize was jointly awarded to Amit Ahuja for his book, Mobilizing the Marginalized: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements and Jairam Ramesh for his biography of V.K. Krishna Menon. A shortlist of six titles of this year's prwill be announced in the last week of October.