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Preet Bharara -- the first Indian-American US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the highest ranking Indian-American law enforcement officer in the Diaspora experience and the man who makes Wall Street tremble -- is the
India Abroad Person of the Year 2011.
Bharara received the award at the ninth annual India Abroad Person of the Year Awards gala, a landmark event on the Indian-American community calendar.
The glittering ceremony, attended by the crème de la crème of the Diaspora and hosted by Columbia University Journalism School Professor Sreenath Sreenivasan, was held on June 29 at The Pierre, the iconic Taj-owned hotel, in New York City.
This year, a total of nine awards were presented in seven categories.
The evening began with three rising stars of the community. The
India Abroad Special Award for Achievement 2011 went to
Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi -- who, resplendent in his uniform, was honoured for his service in Afghanistan, for being the first turbaned Sikh to serve in the US Army in almost three decades and being decorated with the Bronze Star, the army’s fourth-highest honour.
Captain Pratima Dharm won the honour for being the first Hindu chaplain in the US Army while
Sukanya Roy was awarded for winning the 84
th Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2011; she kept the
desi reign at the Bee going for the fourth year running.
India Abroad Award for Lifetime Service to the Community 2011 went to
Dr Thomas Abraham, founder president, National Federation of Indian American Organizations and later founder president of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, for working tirelessly to give the Indian-American community a voice when it had none.
From celebrating the past, the evening turned its eye on the
India Abroad Face of the Future 2011 -- MacArthur Genius
Dr Shwetak N Patel. Earlier winners of the award, mathematician Dr Manjul Bhargava, the second-youngest full professor at Princeton University, and Dr
Priyamvada Natarajan, professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University, presented the award -- a historic moment that brought together three brilliant Indian-American minds.
Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, the first Indian American to head a major American think-tank, won the
India Abroad Publisher’s Special Awards for Excellence 2011.
India Abroad Publisher and
Rediff.com Founder, Chairman and CEO Ajit Balakrishnan presented the award, which had earlier been won by the likes of astronaut Sunita Williams and Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Jhumpa Lahiri and Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with whom Tanden worked as a key aide during the former’s days as First Lady, Senator and her presidential campaign, congratulated
her via a video specially recorded for the India Abroad Person of the Year 2011 event.
Clinton hailed the role
India Abroad has played in the United States.
India Abroad has been a voice for the Indian community in this country for decades,” Clinton said. “As that community grows larger and attains greater influence
India Abroad has been there to highlight its successes and encourage greater participation. As secretary of state and throughout my career I have seen the critical role the Indian Diaspora is playing in the United States and I want to applaud that engagement and hope you will continue to be a voice for diversity, tolerance and hard work, all values that both Neera and
India Abroad personify.”
After a lovely fusion dinner, combining the best culinary traditions of The Pierre and the Taj group, the nearly 300 guests met the winners of the
India Abroad Friend of India Award 2011.
Launched last year, the award honours an American academic, diplomat, politician or writer who has enhanced American understanding of India or improved US-India relations. The winner of the first India Abroad Friend of India Award was Dr Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration and currently President of the Brookings Institution.