The New India Foundation awarded the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize to Ornit Shani for her book, How India Became Democratic — published by Penguin Random House India — on November 9.
The second annual book prize was announced at the Bangalore Literature Festival by NIF trustees and members of the jury Nandan Nilekani, Ramachandra Guha, Manish Sabharwal and Srinath Raghavan. It carries a prize purse of Rs 15 lakh and a citation.
The book is a scholarly work by Shani, exploring the greatest experiment in democratic human history through the untold story of the creation of the electoral roll and universal adult franchise in the world’s largest democracy, India. It is set during the tumultuous period following independence and in the backdrop of the partition of India and Pakistan.
The book shines a light on the extraordinary tale of drawing up India’s first electoral rolls, even before the Constitution of India had been drafted, and the definition of an Indian citizen finalized. Shani makes the claim that Indians received adult franchise before becoming citizens.
Other books that featured in the shortlist this year included Alpa Shah’s Nightmarch: A Journey into India’s Naxal Heartlands, Snigdha Poonam’s Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing Their World, Piers Vitebsky’s Living Without the Dead: Loss and Redemption in a Jungle Cosmos, Rohit De’s A People’s Constitution: The Everyday Life of Law in the Indian Republic, and Manoranjan Byapari’s Interrogating My Chandal Life.
“The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize enables us to take the forward the mission of NIF to promote highest quality work on contemporary India. It’s the ideal complement to our flagship programme of book-writing fellowships,” said Srinath Raghavan.
The NIF Book Prize is open to all authors writing on contemporary India, independent of their nationality, and published in the preceding calendar year.