Alpa Shah's 'Nightmarch...' makes longlist of Orwell Prize

New Delhi


Alpa Shah's "Nightmarch: A Journey into Indias Naxal Heartlands" that chronicles a seven-night march the anthropologist undertook with a group of Maoists to understand what makes them tick is among the 12 works longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing, it was announced on Tuesday.

Shah was the only woman and the only unarmed person, dressed as a man in an olive-green guerilla uniform, to have undertaken the 250 km journey through Bihar and Jharkhand in 2010. 

"I am delighted that this tragic story of forest dwellers and underground armed rebels, hidden even within India, is gaining international recognition," Shah, an associate professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said in a statement. 

The book was inspired by George Orwell "in its hope of challenging received wisdom, revealing unexpected insights you couldn't otherwise have foreseen, while making that process into an aesthetic experience. In our current era of rising inequality and authoritarianism, we need Orwell's sense of political and artistic purpose in writing more than ever to keep alive the spaces of democracy, hope of justice, and demands for a more equal world", Shah added.

The winner will be announced in June to coincide with Orwell's 115th birth annivesary.

Shah has reported and presented on India for BBC Radio 4 and the World Service. Her work is based on her insights from living as a social anthropologist for several years amongst the Adivasis of eastern India. She led the writing of "Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in 21st Century India" and is the author of "In the Shadows of the State".

"We are thrilled by the announcement and hope it is the first among many more to follow in the awards season this year. 'Nightmarch', undoubtedly one of the finest and most important works of non-fiction published in India last year, richly deserves every honour that is coming its way," Siddhesh Inamdar, commissioning editor at HarperCollins, said.

Published in the UK and India in 2018 and in the US this year, "Nightmarch" has featured on a number of year-end 'best books' lists and has been garnering wide international acclaim.

"The Orwell Prize for Political Writing aims to encourage good writing and thinking about politics. The winning entry should strive to meet Orwell's own ambition ‘to make political writing into an art'. It should be of equal excellence in style and content - the writing must be both political and artful - and live up to the values of The Orwell Foundation," a posting on its website said.

Though the Orwell Prize for Political Writing is a new category other Indians who have featured in the past in different categories include Siddhartha Deb's "The Beautiful and the Damned: Life in the New India" (2012), Pankaj Mishra's "From the Ruins of the Empire" (2013) and Rana Dasgupta's "Capital" (2015). IANS