That the transition to self-governance under a nation-state has not been accompanied by the greater focus on Indian citizens’ welfare which many expected, has been the source of much confusion and disappointment. Looking at late-colonial debates about property rights under Hindu personal law, this paper seeks to explain why people assumed that independence could change the relationship between the state and Indian society, and also why this has not come about. It argues that, from the latter half of the nineteenth century, economic, social, and political changes placed pressure on the very hierarchical structures of joint-family patriarchy that colonial rule had hitherto depended on. Calls for family reform seemed, at certain moments, to critique patriarchal control and social order more generally, creating the intellectual space to rethink the place of women within the family, and the state more widely. Yet, while couched in the language of women's rights, underpinning these reform debates was an interest to change men's property rights and enhance their individual control over the family. Thus, the interwar years witnessed not just a breaking down of an old colonial patriarchal order, but also the establishment of a new, post-colonial patriarchy based around the authority of the propertied husband.