11 scholars given fellowships by NIF to chronicle today’s India

New Delhi: The New India Foundation has just announced its award of 11 fellowships, the largest number in a given year. Featuring Anjum Hasan and journalist Sohini C., the line-up of scholars shows great potential. The fellowships will support non-fiction publishing projects, covering trajectories marked by post-Independence India in law, business, environment, politics and culture.

Filling a huge gap in good research on India’s modern and contemporary history, the NIF fellowship is an outcome of conversations between historian Ramachandra Guha and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani. So far, there have been about 50 of these awarded. The foundation was set up in 2004. Twenty-two books written by fellowship winners have been published. They include Akshaya Mukul’s Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India (HarperCollins, 2015), Rahul Pandita’s Our Moon Has Blood Clots (Random House, India, 2013) and Anis Kidwai’s In Freedom’s Shade (Penguin India, 2011). In coming months, three more titles are slated for release, their authors being Kanoto Chopi, Rajshree Chandra and Pradeep Magazine. Since 2018, the foundation has also been presenting the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Book Prize, an annual award.

“The scholars are the greatest ambassadors of what the foundation can do,” historian Srinath Raghavan, who is a trustee of the foundation alongside Nilekani, Guha, political scientist Niraja Jayal and Teamlease Services chairman Manish Sabharwal, told this newspaper. “NIF gives a serious platform to non-fiction writers. In so doing, it underlines the paucity of such opportunities in India, as compared with the West.” Prof. Raghavan is part of the jury that decided the fellowship winners. They were selected from a corpus of 900 applications. The award consists of an annual stipend of Rs 18 lakhs, editorial assistance and collaboration with publishers. “The pandemic year has truly been an exceptional one,” said Prof. Raghavan.

Among this year’s projects will be Hasan’s Shillong: First City of India’s Northeast, Jayaseelan Raj’s The Egalitarian Paradox: Dalits and the State in Kerala, M. Mohsin Alam Bhat’s Constitutional Culture: Muslims and Popular Constitutionalism in India and Sohini C’s The Losers: A History of Women Runners, and Running, in India. Good luck to all the writers!


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