2002 Award Ceremony

The 3rd annual Sardar Patel Award was held on December 7th, 2002 at the Ackerman Grand Ballroom at UCLA Campus. This year we had a unique occasion where we had two winners for each of their submissions. They were Dr. Farina Mir and Dr. Rachel Sturman.

Dr. Farina Mir                     Dr. Rachel Sturman

2002 Award Ceremony:
Abstract of Dr. Mir's Dissertation
Abstract of Dr. Sturman's Dissertation
Ceremony Program
Keynote Speakers
Letter from the Chairman of FSPAA
Letter from the UCLA History Chair

Abstract of Dr. Mir's Dissertation

"The Social Space of Language: Punjabi Popular Narrative in Colonial India. c. 1850-1900"

     This information will be posted soon.

Abstract of Dr. Sturman's Dissertation

"Family Values: Refashioning Property and Family in Colonial Bombay Presidency. 1818-1937"

     This dissertation reconnects the study of politics, law and the state in modern India to histories of intimate life. It focuses on the linkages between colonial transformations in property and colonial histories of the family. In colonial India the family as a nexus of property-holding and affective ties became a crucial terrain for new formulations of the rights-bearing individual and the modern legal subject. This project traces the multiple strands and ambiguities of this history, showing its contradictory and often surprising movements, and its uneasy relationship to the present.

    Property was central both to British imaginings of the individual, law and the state, and to Indian methods of creating family relationships and signifying social authority. Yet, both Indians and British in western India expressed multiple, changing views of the relationships that defined family in the region, and of the ways in which property, or objects of value structured those relationships.

    Drawing on the records of the Bombay colonial archive and the Bombay High Court, this project focuses on the most significant and contentious ways through which people made and remade their families: adoption marriage, and inheritance. Far from guarding their private lives from the intervention of the colonial state, Indians regularly used colonial institutions and indeed sought such state intervention to redefine their families according to their own aims. These disputes reveal complex family alliances and arrangements and suggest some of the ways in which family relationships regularly exceeded both colonial and indigenous normative models of the joint family.

    Both Indians and British viewed families as a locus of rights, but also of dependence and of necessary inequalities. In this sense, the language of rights was employed to extend both equality and inequalities as rights were defined not universally, but differentially, within the family. This process found its signal case in the adjudication of women's claims as a distinct and unified category of claims. This colonial process reflected Victorian conceptions of woman as a coherent, foundational, and universal category - and as the quintessential example of human difference and of inequality. Such colonial adjudication was fundamentally at odds with earlier indigenous frameworks in which the differences among women had been crucial to signifying social and symbolic hierarchies. In this context, colonial adjudication of women's claims formed a key terrain for reconceptualizing human difference: as fundamentally raising questions about inequality, rather than hierarchy. Yet this modern focus on inequality did not entirely replace earlier ways of imagining based on hierarchy. Rather, modern ways of thinking about inequality, difference, and rights at once subsumed hierarchy and also worked alongside a hierarchical imagination that was now defined as non-modern.

Award Ceremony Program

Masters of Ceremony
Niyati Kamdar & Jigar Patel

4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Lighting of Lamp by Mr. & Mrs. Manibhai Mehta
U.S. National Anthem by Meena Mehta
Indian National Anthem by Meena Mehta
Entertainment Program by UCLA - ISU Students

Award Ceremony
5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Welcome by Shela Patel
Talk on Life of Sardar Patel by Dinker Shah
Introduction of Chief Guest by Uka Solanki
Chief Guest Keynote Address by Sam Pitroda
Consulate General of India by Ambassador Shri Viswanathan
Dean of Social Sciences Dep. UCLA by Dr. Scott Waugh
Award criteria and introduction of committee by Dr. D. R. SarDesai
Presentation of Award by Ukabhai and Nalini Solanki
Acceptance of Award by David Stuligross
Donation to Red Cross by Big Saver Foods

6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Keynote Speakers

Sam Pitroda

    Sam Pitroda is a story of self-assurance. It unfolds the saga of a man who broke free of the social and economic constraints of his origin, like Sardar Patel did. He received a high school diploma from Vallabh Vidya Nagar, MSc from Baroda University and MS from Illinois Institute of Technology.

    Working for GTE, he had patents to his credit once every month. A recognized telecommunications genius, he became a partner in a company called WESCOM, which has sold for 100 million dollars after a few years. A multimillionaire at the age of 38 with a prestigious job with Rockwell International, Satyanarayan known as Sam in the U.S., returned to India to place the telephone in the perspective of nation-building. Starting from scratch, Sam set up the Center for the Development of Telematics also known as C-DOT, which was conceptualized to inspire the young generation of engineers who were losing faith in the country. He is considered the father of telecommunications in India. He is the one who is responsible for having a literally millions phone booths, also known as STD booths, all over India. He is rightly compared to Sardar Patel: Sardar did geographically while Sam did through telephony.

    During Rajiv Gandhi's premiership, he was a chairman of six technology missions that included water supply, wasteland management, immunization, literacy and dairy. He survived six different prime ministers. After Rajiv Ganghi's death, he came back to the U.S. In spite of being rich and famous, he is unassuming, easy to talk to, and adheres to a modest lifestyle not forgetting his origin.

Current positions:
Chairman and CEO of WorldTel Ltd.
Founding Chairman of Telecom Commission-Government of India.
Founder of several companies in the United States and Europe.
Owner of over 50 worldwide patents.

Letter from the Chairman of FSPAA

Dear friends,

    We are very happy and proud to celebrate the presentation of the 3rd Annual Sardar Patel Dissertation Award. Upon recommendation of the Selection Committee, appointed by the UCLA Department of History, this year the Friends of Sardar Patel Award Association will be presenting the Sardar Patel Dissertation Award to two winners. The winners are Farina Mir, whose PhD. dissertation work is entitled "The Social Space of Language: Punjabi Popular Narrative in Colonial India. c. 1850-1900 and Rachel Sturman, whose PhD. dissertation work is entitled "Family Values: Refashioning Property and Family in Colonial Bombay Presidency, 1818-1937".

    We were delighted to learn that we had received thirteen PhD. dissertations from students of various universities in the United States. We are very grateful to Professor Vinay Lal of the UCLA Department of History and his colleagues on the Selection Committee for a tremendous effort and for their spending countless hours evaluating the best scholarly work among all the PhD. dissertations presented. Also this evaluation work was completed in a very limited time frame Thus once again we would like to express our thanks to Professor Vinay Lal and his colleagues on the Selection Committee.

    Since its inception, FSPAA has always believed in the participation of all people, and especially so regarding the younger generation. This year the members of UCLA Indian Student Association (ISU) have actively participated in the preparation of this award function and we appreciate the timely help and support from Jimmy Savani and Radha Tilva of UCLA ISU. We look forward to having a long-term relationship and involvement of UCLA ISU and other university students with FSPAA.

    I take this opportunity to announce the completion of the FSPAA Constitution and By-laws. My sincere thanks and congratulations to Jitendra Mehta for his meritorious work involving fine scrutiny in the legal application and interpretation of each and every word I very much appreciate the continuous efforts provided by the By-Laws Committee to make this Constitution excellent and meaningful.

    One more announcement! we have recently created a Sardar Patel Award website All information about the Sardar Patel Award can be accessed by www.SardarPatelAward.com .My special thanks to Ronak Patel for his tremendous help in setting up and managing the website quite effectively. Once again I invite you all to visit the website at www.SardarPatelAward.com.

    Last but not least, I want to thank all the members and their spouses of FSPAA Committee for their continuing unwavering support to make this FSPAA creation an everlasting one. My sincere appeal to all of you is to let us join our hands and hearts together to make our association a great ideal institution.

Lalchand Gaglani

Letter from the UCLA History Chair


     Dear Friends,

     The Sardar Patel Award for the best doctoral dissertation in modern Indian studies at any American university takes its name from a man who occupies a significant, even unique, place in the history of India in the twentieth century. Panel was one of Mohandas Gandhi's closest associates and be organized and led several satyagrahas during India's struggle for fiefdom from British rule. When India achieved independence in 1947, Patel became Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and he presided over the most difficult task facing the nascent nation-state namely the integration of over 500 princely states into the Indian Union.

    Vallabhbhai Patel was born in Nadiad in present-day Gujarat in 1875. He completed his schooling in the local area and subsequently, in his 30s, he went to Britain, like many of his generation of political leaders, where he qualified as a barrister. Patel returned to India around the same time as Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, on the eve of World War I, and the two met shortly thereafter. Patel joined Gandhi in representing the weavers in the dispute with mellowness in Ahmedabad in 1918 and he played a pivotal role in helping to redress the grievances of peasants in Kheda district. "I will say", wrote Gandhi, "that without the help of Vallabhbhai Patel, we should not have won the campaign. He had a splendid [law] practice, he had his municipal work to dos but he renounced it all and threw himself in the campaign." Patel was charged in 1928 with leading the difficult satyagraha at Bardoli where again the colonial state was attempting to exact heavy taxes from an impoverished peasantry, and he acquitted himself brilliantly. In 1931, Patel was elected President of the Indian National Congress. Gandhi reposed great confidence in him through the three decades of their friendship.

    Gandhi's assassination on 30 January 1948 at the hands of Nathuram Godse left Patel bereft of the guidance of "Bapu", his political mentor and the "Father of the Nation". Patel was immensely shaken up and his own death in late 1950 may have been hastened by the anxiety he experienced after Gandhi's death. The prevailing representations of Patel dwell almost exclusively on his political achievements, and it is not surprising that three generations of Indian school children have known Patel as the "Iron Man of India". Everyone recognized his steely determination and pragmatism, and nowhere was this more visibly on display when as Home Minister and Minister of States he took decisive action to consolidate the Indian Union and authorized police action to merge Hyderabad into India. It has been suggested by Some people that if Patel had been placed in charge of Kashmir, a ''problem'' which Nehru sought to tackle himself both as Prime Minister and as Minister of External Affairs, the crisis in Kashmir would have been resolved in India's favor a long time ago.

    Though a staunch Hindu, Patel had a keen appreciation of the synthetic culture of India and he recognized that India had furnished a hospitable home to adherents of various religions over the centuries. Patel contributed very substantially to the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly and it has not always been recognized that the protection and privileges guaranteed to minorities in the Indian Constitution under Articles 29 and 30 owe much to the vigilance of Patel. Indeed, Patel, unlike some other Hindu leaders, was insistent that the right to proselytize should be recognized as part of the right to freedom of religious worship, With respect to the position of Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious communities in India Patel wrote that "it is up to the majority community by its generosity, to create a sense of confidence in the minorities, and so also it will be the duty of the minority communities to forge the past . . .'' His criticism of the use of violence to resolve political disputes bears a sharp contrast with the use of violence by religious extremists in India in recent years. In 1949 art idol of Lord Ram was surreptitiously installed in the precincts of the Babri Masjid; writing to Govind Vallabh Pant, then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on 9 January 1950 Patel encouraged him to prosecute violators of the law and perpetrators of violence. "I feel that the issue is one which should be resolved amicably.'' wrote Patel, "in a spirit of mutual toleration and goodwill between the two communities. . . . such matters can only be resolved peacefully if we take the willing consent of the Muslim community with us. There can be no question of resolving such disputes by force."

    Patel desired nothing more than that the Indian nation-state should persevere and flourish. Nehru's biographer, S. Gopal, admitted that Patel's ''major concern was national unity." Patel is still remembered as one of principal architects of Indian independence and one of the shapers of modern India. An award instituted in his name rightly does him honor, just as the Friends of the Sardar Patel Award Association hope that it will spur renewed scholarly interest in unraveling the complexities of modern India.

    The Sardar Patel Award Committee comprised of six faculty members drawn from different departments at UCLA, was faced with the difficult task of evaluating thirteen doctoral dissertations that were entered into this year's competition. The Committee's members were of the opinion that an unusually large number of these theses were possible contenders for the award and it is after much deliberation that the Committee decided to name two co-winners for the 2002 Sardar Patel Award.

    Farina Mir completed her dissertation ''The Social Space of Language: Punjabi Popular Narrative in Colonial India, c. 1850-1900", at Columbia University. This dissertation is a study of the evolution of literature and language politics in Punjab in the second half of the 19th century, and it focuses on the Hir-Ranjha narratives and their ambiguous location at the oral-written border. Thoroughly researched with a demonstrable command over a large range of primary and secondary texts, this dissertation also shows a familiarity with the theoretical issues that have emerged in recent scholarship and with a broad swathe of scholarship on oral and print cultures, Ms. Mir argues that Punjabi was not quite viewed as a "proper" language by the colonial state and consequently it did not fall under the colonial state's gaze, jurisdiction, and endeavors towards ''standardization'' to quite the same degree as some other Indian languages. As a consequence, notwithstanding the colonial state's creation of religious communities, and the reinforcement of such categories as ''Hindu'', ''Muslim'', and ''Sikh'' by colonial stenographers as well as nationalist religious reformers, the boundaries between different religious frameworks remained highly permeable in the Punjab. Her arguments are supported by a close reading of numerous narratives, in several languages, of the popular story of Hir and Ranjha, which could be read as a Krishnaite allegory, as a Sufi text, as a repository of Nath Yogi practices and beliefs, and even as a celebration of non-religious terms of socialite and piety. This study carefully delineates the contours of Punjabi literary culture across the communal divides between Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim identities, identifying the modernity of this culture precisely as the mutual tensions between these identities. Ms. Mir's dissertation interrogates some of the received narratives of Indian modernity through a region that is largely ignored in cultural studies-inflected historiography and Indian studies more broadly. Ms. Mir is now Assistant Professor of History at the University of Michigan.

    Rachel Sturman earned her doctorate at the University of California, Davis, with a dissertation entitled “Family Values: Refashioning Property and Family in Colonial Bombay Presidency, 1818-l 937.'' Her dissertation draws extensively on the Bombay colonial archives and the records of the Bombay High Court, and it focuses, in her own words, “on the most significant and contentious ways through which Indians made and remade their families: adoption, marriage, and inheritance.'' The multiple, competing, and overlapping indigenous systems of social authority were sought to be replaced by the colonial state with a single set of legal institutions and practices representative of the transcendent power of a modern state. Her study explores how the colonial state, and its “native” subjects, negotiated claims over property and such aspects of family life as marriage, adoption, and inheritance. Ms. Sturman suggests that the Victorian conception of woman as a foundational, coherent, and universal category, which she contrasts with the indigenous conception of women as signifiers of diverse forms of social and symbolic hierarchy, was critical to the formulation of an agenda of what in Britain was termed “improvement'', and that this Victorian conception would inform social reform movements in India. To her credit, Ms. Sturman complicates her own argument about the recasting of patriarchal structures in Western India under colonial law by, for example, considering the anomaly of prostitutes’ practices of adopting female, not male, children. Members of the committee were impressed by Ms. Sturman's command over archival and secondary sources, her attentiveness to detail as well as nuances, her knowledge of recent theoretical literature, and the significance of her work for an understanding of large aspects of histories of intimate life in modern India. Ms. Sturman is presently with the Society of Fellows, and an Assistant Professor of History, at the University of Michigan.

    I am grateful to the other members of the selection committee – Professors Aamir Mufti (Comparative Literature), Esha De (Writing Program/English/Women's Studies), David Gere (World Arts and Cultures), Saloni Mathur (Art History), and Gabi Pieterberg (History) -- for their selfless work in helping to evaluate the dissertations.

Vinay Lal
Associate Professor of History, UCLA and Chair. Sardar Patel Award Committee