The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay New India Foundation (NIF) Book Prize 2022 was awarded to The Chipko Movement: A People’s History by historian and author Shekhar Pathak on December 1. It was translated from Hindi by Manisha Chaudhry, bi-lingual editor, writer and translator and published by Permanent Black and Ashoka University.
The Chipko Movement goes into research, analyses and data going beyond the stalwarts of the movement Sunderlal Bahuguna, Gaura Devi and Chandi Prasad Bhatt. It talks about how this environmental movement which had a massive impact on the felling of trees never had one principle but was an amalgamation of several ideologies and involved the masses.
In the fifth edition of the prize since its inception, the shortlist saw a variety of books which were research-based and depicted changing aspects of modern India. The shortlist for 2022 comprised Accidental Feminism: Gender Parity and Selective Mobility Among India’s Professional Elite by Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen; The Chipko Movement: A People’s History by Shekhar Pathak, translated by Manisha Chaudhry; Whole Numbers and Half Truths: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About Modern India by Rukmini S; Midnight’s Borders: A People’s History of Modern India by Suchitra Vijayan; and Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India by Ghazala Wahab.
The prize which acknowledges the power of non-fiction writing in modern India has been earlier awarded to Milan Vaishnav for When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics in 2018; Ornit Shani for How India Became Democratic in 2019; Amit Ahuja for Mobilizing the Marginalized: Ethnic Parties Without Ethnic Movements; Jairam Ramesh for A Chequered Brilliance in 2020 and Dinyar Patel for Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism in 2021.
This year, the jury was chaired by political scientist and author Niraja Gopal Jayal and included entrepreneur Manish Sabharwal, historian and author Srinath Raghavan, historian and author Nayanjot Lahiri, former diplomat and author Navtej Sarna and attorney and author Rahul Matthan.
According to the official statement by the jury, “This is the definitive history of the Chipko movement by a scholar who has practically lived it. It is fitting that a book that tells the story of a movement through the eyes of the local communities, especially women, should be as readable as this one is. Translated from Hindi by Manisha Chaudhry, Shekhar Pathak’s book is a salutary reminder of the transformative power of collective action, and not just an important work of history, but one that speaks to the contemporary moment and its twin crises of ecology and democracy.”
The winning author received a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh, a trophy and citation.