India, a nation known by many names, is currently embroiled in a debate over its official name. While the country is legally recognized as “India,” it also goes by the names “Bharat” and “Hindustan.”
The controversy ignited when the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government began using “Bharat” more prominently in official documents and communications.
A debate is brewing in India over whether to officially use “Bharat” instead of “India.” The ruling party, BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, supports this change, arguing that “India” is a symbol of colonialism.
This shift has sparked discussions about the historical and political significance of these names, leading to questions about whether “India” should continue to be the primary identifier for the nation.
The Controversy Over Name: India, Bharat, and Hindustan
Before delving into the current controversy, it’s essential to understand the historical context of India’s various names. India’s constitution recognizes the country by three names: India, Bharat, and Hindustan. These names are used interchangeably in official and public contexts.
The country is recognized by three distinct titles:
- India: This name, often used internationally, dates back to the colonial era when the British ruled the Indian subcontinent. Critics argue that India carries the legacy of colonialism and represents a period of subjugation.
- Bharat: The term Bharat has deep historical roots, tracing its origins to ancient Sanskrit texts. It refers to an expansive territory known as “Bharatavarsa,” which extended beyond modern India’s borders, possibly encompassing parts of what is now Indonesia.
- Hindustan: Another name for India, “Hindustan” translates to “land of the Hindus” in Urdu. Historically, it referred to the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent.
The Trigger: Official Invitations and Statements
The recent controversy began when official dinner invitations to the Group of 20 (G20) summit referred to the country as “Bharat” instead of the more familiar “India.” This change caught the attention of the public and triggered discussions about the government’s intentions regarding the country’s name.
This sparked discussion and confusion among the public. On the same day, a senior spokesperson from the BJP referred to Prime Minister Modi as the “prime minister of Bharat” during a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Indonesia:
‘The Prime Minister Of Bharat’ pic.twitter.com/lHozUHSoC4
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) September 5, 2023
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Why ‘Bharat’ Stirs Controversy
Critics fear that the BJP intends to change the country’s name to Bharat exclusively. Bharat is a Sanskrit term from ancient scriptures and may encompass regions beyond modern-day India.
The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, argues that the name “India” carries the stigma of colonial oppression. They assert that it is a reminder of British colonial rule and symbolizes a period of subjugation and exploitation. The party contends that “Bharat” is the nation’s true identity, rooted in ancient scriptures and reflecting a time when India was not under foreign rule.
Naresh Bansal, a BJP member of parliament, has voiced this perspective, stating that “India” is a symbol of “colonial slavery” and should be removed from the country’s constitution.
The name “Bharat” has been associated with the nation for thousands of years and represents its true heritage:
भारत भारतीयों का गौरव है। यह परंपरा, संस्कृति, ज्ञान और त्याग की पवित्र भूमि है। हमारे पूर्वज ‘भरत’ के नाम पर इस देश का नाम भारत है और हम सब भारतीय है।
मुसलमानों और अंग्रेजों के आक्रमण के बाद भारत का नाम बदलता गया। कभी हिंदुस्तान तो भी इंडिया होता गया। तुर्कों, अरबों ने सिंधु…
— अतुल द्विवेदी (@atuldphil) September 6, 2023
Critics of the BJP’s stance are concerned that the push to replace India with Bharat reflects a broader agenda of cultural and historical revisionism. They argue that renaming cities and places associated with the Mughal and colonial periods is an attempt to erase the contributions and history of these periods.
For instance, last year, the Mughal Garden at the presidential palace in New Delhi was renamed Amrit Udyan. Critics view these actions as an effort to diminish the influence and significance of the Mughals, who were Muslim rulers and dominated the Indian subcontinent for nearly 300 years.
Roop Rekha Verma, a professor of philosophy and former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University, sees the controversy as a manifestation of intolerance in Modi’s government.
She points to instances where the government has disregarded the constitution and the law, suggesting that this trend extends to the potential renaming of the country. Verma also raises concerns that the opposition’s unity may be driving the government’s efforts to change the country’s name further.
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The Opposition’s Wants to Preserve India
The opposition, led by the Indian National Congress party, has cautioned against abandoning the name India:
▪️ 𝐂𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐀𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐡𝐚𝐛𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐏𝐫𝐚𝐲𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐣 – ~𝟑𝟎𝟎 𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐫𝐞
▪️𝐂𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐀𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐛𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐂𝐡𝐡𝐚𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐢 𝐒𝐚𝐦𝐛𝐡𝐚𝐣𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐫 – ~𝟓𝟎𝟎 𝐂𝐫𝐨𝐫𝐞
Now if we calculate Cost of Changing name of INDIA… pic.twitter.com/eI0gJb47fh
— Mahua Moitra Fans (@MahuaMoitraFans) September 5, 2023
Shashi Tharoor, a prominent Congress lawmaker, acknowledges that there is no constitutional objection to using Bharat since it is one of the country’s official names.
However, he emphasizes the historical and global recognition associated with the name India. Tharoor believes that both names should coexist rather than relinquish the brand value that India has accrued over centuries. The newly formed opposition alliance, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), shares these concerns.
They argue that while “Bharat” is used colloquially, the name “India” is internationally recognized and carries historical significance. Leaders like Mamata Banerjee, a top opposition figure, question the sudden push to change the country’s name and emphasize that “India” is a name known to the world.
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BJP’s Perspective On The Controversy
To address the growing controversy, the Indian government has called for a special parliamentary session scheduled for September 18-22. However, the government has not announced any specific agenda for this session, leading to speculation about whether the country’s name will be on the table for discussion:
India🇮🇳 is likely to be renamed as “Bharat” in the special session of parliament on September 18.
This move by BJP is to counter the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), a big tent political alliance of 26 political parties in India led by the
— The Strategic Syndicate (@SyndicatePSF) September 5, 2023
The BJP argues that India is a reminder of colonial rule and should be removed from the constitution. They believe Bharat is the country’s rightful name. Some government officials, including Information Minister Arunag Thakur, have dismissed the idea of changing the country’s name as mere “rumours” spread by the opposition.
However, political analysts believe that the escalating rhetoric suggests that Prime Minister Modi and the BJP are feeling pressure from the opposition, especially in the run-up to the 2024 general election.
The Indian government has called a special parliamentary session in September, leading to speculation that the country’s name may be discussed. However, some officials dismiss this as opposition-driven rumours.
Rasheed Kidwai, a visiting fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank, suggests that political and electoral considerations are at the core of the India-Bharat debate. Kidwai believes that the BJP’s heightened rhetoric indicates that Modi and his party are acknowledging the growing threat posed by the united opposition block.
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Political and Electoral Considerations
Experts suggest that political and electoral concerns play a significant role in this issue. The BJP may be responding to perceived threats from the opposition bloc, especially in the lead-up to the 2024 general election.
The debate over India’s name, whether “India,” “Bharat,” or “Hindustan,” is far from a simple linguistic matter. It touches upon historical legacies, colonial history, cultural identities, and political considerations.
As India grapples with this debate, the nation is faced with questions about its past, present, and future, all while navigating the complexities of its diverse society and political landscape.
Whether “Bharat” will replace “India” as the nation’s primary identifier remains to be seen, but this debate is a reflection of the multifaceted nature of the world’s largest democracy. Keep your finger on the pulse of the news with Digi Hind News.