Author Tony Joseph on Monday was declared the winner of the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2019 for his book Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From.

The award, which came into being in 2008, includes a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh and a trophy. Following the announcement, Joseph tweeted: “Thank you to the Shakti Bhatt Foundation and the jury for this honour that I value deeply!”

Early Indians tells the story of the people of South Asia through research in six disciplines, including path-breaking new DNA evidence,” the foundation said. “It puts to rest the ugly debates about the ancestry of modern Indians by revealing an undeniable truth: we are all migrants; we are all mixed.”

This year’s judges – writers Sonia Faleiro and Prayaag Akbar – chose Joseph’s work out of a shortlist of five books. Babu Bangladeshi by Numair Atif Choudhury, No Nation for Women by Priyanka Dubey, Goodbye Freddie Mercury by Nadia Akbar, and Ib’s Endless Search for Satisfaction by Roshan Ali were in the shortlist.

Early Indians is a remarkable exploration of the origins of the first humans who occupied the Indian subcontinent, bringing together a wealth of research from population genetics, archaeology, social history, biology, linguistics and other fields that are proving deeply interconnected,” said the judges in a statement. “Tony Joseph’s breadth of reading helps him combine insights from older studies of the topic with the latest research, resulting in a deft, compelling and accessible narrative that does not lack in rigour. As the question of origin becomes, increasingly, a tool of politics, Joseph’s book serves as a vital corrective to those who seek to simplify this most complex of subjects.

Author Sujatha Gidla’s Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India was the winner of the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize, 2018.

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