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Amit Ahuja and Jairam Ramesh Awarded Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2020

The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay New India Foundation (NIF) Book Prize 2020 has been jointly bagged by Amit Ahuja for Mobilizing the Marginalised: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements and Jairam Ramesh for A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of VK Krishna Menon, the jury announced on Thursday.


According to a press release from NIF, 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 Lahir, and Manish Sabharwal, chairman of Teamlease Services.

This year’s winners will share the prize money of Rs 15 lakhs and will each receive the Book Prize trophy.

The jury citation for Ahuja, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reads, “It 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?” The jury also said that the piece was “elegantly written and accessible work of scholarship that richly illuminates the relationship between social movements and political parties.”

The jury citation for Jairam Ramesh, who is a Rajya Sabha MP and former Union minister between 2006 and 2014, reads “It 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.”


The winners were selected from among the shortlist of six works that covered a century of modern Indian history across several genres. The works that were shortlisted were Midnight’s Machines: A Political History of Technology in India by Arun Mohan Sukumar, The Unquiet River: A Biography of the Brahmaputra by Arupjyoti Saikia, Bottle of Lies: Ranbaxy and the Dark Side of Indian Pharma by Katherine Eban, and Wild Himalaya: A Natural History of the Greatest Mountain Range on Earth by Stephen Alter.

Previous winners of the award include Ornit Shani for her scholarly work in How India Became Democratic in 2019 and Milan Vaishnav for his debut work in When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics in 2018.

The Kamaladevi NIF Book Prize is named after Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, patriot, and institution-builder, who had contributed to the freedom struggle, women’s movement, refugee rehabilitation, and renewal of handicrafts.