Preet Bharara, The Prosecutor Who Makes Wall Street Tremble, Is The India Abroad Person Of The Year 2011

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.

The 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.

Policy guru 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 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.

This year the award went to the American couple who have dedicated their lives to teaching and writing about India at a time when not many international scholars considered the nation important.

Professors Lloyd I Rudolph and Susanne H Rudolph first visited India in 1956. They returned again and again, not because their careers revolved around the country but because they fell in love with it.

Author Anita Desai -- who has thrice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and has won India’s highest literary honour, the Sahitya Akademi Award -- was honoured with the India Abroad Lifetime Achievement Award 2011. Booker Prize-winning author Sir Salman Rushdie attended the event just to salute the legend.

The evening ended with the much-anticipated India Abroad Person of the Year Award 2011. No one needed to be told why Preet Bharara -- who has in the past year sent some of the biggest names on Wall Street to prison and nailed notorious arms traffickers like Viktor Bout, numerous drug traffickers and terrorists -- was the unanimous choice for this year’s honour.

He captivated the audience with his speech as he joined the list of luminaries that makes up the India Abroad Person of the Year roster -- then Iowa state legislator Swati Dandekar (2002), Indicorps co-founder Sonal Shah (2003), captain of the silver medal-winning US gymnastic team at the Athens Olympics Mohini Bhardwaj (2004), then US Congressman and current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (2005), PepsiCo Chairperson and CEO Indra Nooyi (2006), acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair (2007), Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and now editor at large of Time magazine (2008), Nobel Laureate Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (2009) and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (2010).

India’s Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao led the guests of honour, which included among others diplomats Ambassador Vijay Nambiar, Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, Ambassador Lakshmi Puri, Ambassador Prabhu Dayal and Manjeev Singh Puri, legendary actress Madhur Jaffrey, Oscar winner Megan Mylan, distinguished dancer Astad Deboo, Natwar Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer, District of Columbia, oncologist Dr Dattatreyudu Nori, Junoon helmsman Salman Ahmed, celebrity chef Floyd Cardoz, comedian Hari Kondabolou and novelist Rajesh Parameswaran.

The event’s sponsors include Wells Fargo, Incredible India, the American University of Antigua, Applecore Hotels, The Trehan Foundation, Zee TV, The Pierre, United Airlines, State Farm, Amrita Singh among others.

About India Abroad

India Abroad is the oldest and most widely circulated weekly newspaper serving the Indian Diaspora, published from New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Toronto. It is owned by Indian Internet leader

The awardees at a glance:
  • India Abroad Person of the Year 2011: Preet Bharara
  • India Abroad Award for Lifetime Achievement 2011: Anita Desai
  • India Abroad Publisher’s Special Awards for Excellence 2011: Neera Tanden
  • India Abroad Award for Lifetime Service to the Community 2011: Dr Thomas Abraham
  • India Abroad Face of the Future 2011: Dr Shwetak N Patel
  • India Abroad Friend of India Award 2011: Professors Lloyd I Rudolph and Susanne H Rudolph
  • India Abroad Special Award for Achievement 2011: Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Captain Pratima Dharm and Sukanya Roy

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