In a big thumbs up to independent publishing and the fight against the caste system, the Indian Young Publisher Award has gone to a journalist who has devoted himself to exclusively bringing out books on caste related issues.
S Anand won the award on Sunday night for his lateral thinking and passion in running the Chennai-based Navayana Book Club, the country's first publishing house to focus only on the issue of caste.
"I think this award will turn the focus on independent publishers who are neglected by distributors and retailers," said Anand. The award is instituted by British Council, International Young Publisher of the Year (IYPY) and Oxford Bookstore.
The job of running an independent publishing house and that too with books exclusively on caste issues is daunting, but the confident 29-year-old is ready to take up the challenge.
"All our books are exclusively on caste issues but if we find any invigorating idea we would go for it. Ideas are important. Whatever we publish should be books of ideas," said Anand after receiving the award at a Kolkata hotel.
Anand's publishing house Navayana literally means 'new vehicle', a term given to Dalit icon BR Ambedkar's socially and morally concerned, rationalistic, anti-metaphysical interpretation of Buddhism. As a publishing venture, Navayana aims to take forward debates on issues neglected by mainstream publishers.
"We publish books on a range of issues related to society, culture, literature, history and politics but the focus is on caste, religious fundamentalism and identity politics.
"In the tradition of Siddharth Gautama, perhaps the first to introduce the culture of dialogue and debate with people who held diverse views in the subcontinent, these books will encourage dialogue and debate on issues the mainstream does not wish to address," Anand said.
Anand, who has worked with Outlook magazine and The Hindu as a journalist, said the problem with independent publishers like him is that they cannot afford to offer huge discounts big publishers can offer.
"Sometimes the distributors demand a discount of up to 67 per cent. How can we afford that? So I hope this award will finally focus on us," he said.
"We have formed the Independent Publishers' Distribution Alternative (IPDA) with about 25 publishing houses as a challenge," he informed.
Navayana has 10 titles to its credit in the past three years, including books like "The Blindness of Insight" by Dilip M Menon.
Anand, who set up Navayana along with Pondicherry-based Dalit activist-theoretician Ravikumar, was selected for the award from a field of 52 stronger applicants across India and a final shortlisted 11.
He will now get the opportunity to compete for the International Young Publisher of the Year Award at the London Book Fair in April 2007.