Amit Ahuja, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California-Santa Barbara and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh were on Thursday declared the joint winners of the Rs. 15 lakh Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize for 2020 for their works “Mobilizing the Marginalised: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements” and “A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of VK Krishna Menon”.
They were selected from a diverse shortlist of six books covering a century of modern Indian history and encompassing several genres.
Ahuja’s book, the jury said, “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.”
Ramesh’s book, the jury said, “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.”
The winners were selected by a six-member jury comprising political scientist and author Niraja Gopal Jayal (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.
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 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.