Dinyar Patel wins Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2021 for definitive biography of Dadabhai Naoroji

The book is a definitive biography of the nineteenth-century activist, among the founders of the Indian National Congress and the first Indian-origin British MP.

Dinyar Patel Collage
The book examines Naoroji’s life in modern India’s political history. (The New India Foundation)

Dinyar Patel has won The New India Foundation’s fourth Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2021 for Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism, a biography of one modern India’s most significant figures.

The foundation selected Patel’s work from a shortlist of six books that covered a wide range of themes and subjects in non-fiction writing about India.

Patel, an assistant professor of history at the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai, was selected by a jury that included author and political scientist Prof Niraja Gopal Jayal, author and entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani, author-historian Srinath Raghavan, author-historian Nayanjot Lahiri, and entrepreneur Manish Sabharwal.

Jury Chair Prof Niraja Gopal Jayal told FE Online: “Naoroji is an outstanding biography of an extraordinary and towering figure of Indian nationalism, a man who Gandhi himself revered.”

“For this elegantly written and superbly crafted biography, Dinyar Patel has discovered and delved into an incredible range of archival sources. He has produced a work of fine scholarship that also has enormous appeal for the general reader.”

The book is a definitive biography of the nineteenth-century activist, among the founders of the Indian National Congress and the first Indian-origin British MP. Dadabhai Naoroji is also cited as an inspiration for Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, who called him the “father of the nation” — a title reserved for Gandhi himself today.

The book examines Naoroji’s life in modern India’s political history. A staunch critic of British colonialism, Naoroji also secured ties with anti-imperialists around the world and established swaraj or self-rule as India’s objective.

Speaking to FE Online, Patel said: “I’m very honoured and humbled to receive the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize. It is particularly pleasing since Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and Dadabhai Naoroji had much in common.”

“Both were were progressives and feminists. They greatly facilitated India’s engagement with the wider world: Naoroji through his decades of work in Great Britain, and Chattopadhyay through her extensive world travels, including time in the United States. Both individuals’ legacies of progressivism, open-mindedness, and inclusive patriotism are much needed in India and the world at large today.”

Patel, who has also taught in the Department of History at the University of South Carolina, and has extensively written for The New York Times and BBC News, will be awarded the prize at a special event on Saturday.

The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize was instituted in 2018 and is considered as one of India’s most-prestigious literary awards. The award celebrates non-fiction literature on modern and contemporary India from writers of all nationalities and comes with a Rs 5-lakh cash award and a citation.

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