Bharat: The Future Name of India?

India has become the subject of controversy after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government sent official invitations using the name Bharat. Many are wondering whether or not this name will change in future invitations sent and India name change to bharat.

Droupadi Murmu was incorrectly referred to in dinner invitations sent out for this week’s Group of 20 Summit (G20) as “President of Bharat”, not “President of India”.

On April 17, a senior BJP spokesman tweeted that Modi would attend the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia as Prime Minister of Bharat.

India, officially and publicly, can also be known by its ancient name Bharat or as Hindustan (meaning land of Hindus in Urdu). All three terms may be interchanged without issue.

India is the name most often associated with it globally.

Why has Bharat been controversial?

Modi’s government and the Hindu nationalist BJP they lead have been accused by critics of planning a change only after the G20 invitations arrived.

Sanskrit was used in the ancient scriptures. This word refers to an unclear location known as Bharatavarsa, which may have extended beyond India to encompass what is now Indonesia.

The BJP has been changing the names of places associated with the Mughal or colonial periods. Last year, Amrit Udyan was adopted for the Mughal Garden at the New Delhi Presidential Palace.

Critics allege that these new names aim to erase from Indian history the Mughals, who ruled over much of India as Muslims for nearly 300 years.

Roop Rekha Verma, professor of philosophy at Lucknow University and former vice chancellor, views this dispute as stemming from Modi’s intolerant administration.

“We have seen that the Constitution and laws are being disregarded. Verma indicated that if an order issued by the Supreme Court does not please the government, then it can be reversed by changes made at a lower-level court.

“I don’t know what will happen next, but my guess is that the opposition’s alliance has formed to attempt to remove India as an official country name.”

What is the history behind both names?

Both have been used for over 2000 years.

Some supporters of Bharat claim that “India” is an archaic term created during British colonial rule; however, historians assert otherwise.

Sanskrit named the Indus River Sindhu; even before Alexander the Great’s invasion in the 3rd century BCE, Greek travellers identified any area southeast of the Indus as India.

Bharat name can be found in ancient Indian scriptures and is generally taken to be more of an indicator of socio-cultural identity than physical geography.

What is the official name of the country?

India is the name given to South Asia’s dominant state in English; other terms used to refer to India include Bharat, Bharata, and Hindustan.

“We, the People of India…,” reads the preamble to this document in English; in its initial section, “India will become a Union of States.

The Constitution in Hindi substitutes Bharat for India wherever possible; however, for the section defining names of countries, it does not use this practice: in that section, “Bharat shall be a Union of States.”

Will the government officially change its name?

Some find the timing of the controversy suggestive of that possibility.

This incident happened just days after the government unexpectedly convened a five-day special session of Parliament with no agenda disclosed, leading to unconfirmed media reports that this move could see name changes discussed and approved during this special session.

No official confirmation has been provided regarding this move; however, members from both the government and the BJP ruling party have suggested giving priority to Bharat over India as the name for its country of origin.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, insists on calling India Bharat.

An official from the government failed to respond immediately when asked for comments.

What has the BJP said?

The BJP asserts that the word “India” remains an artefact of colonialism and should therefore be changed accordingly.

Naresh Bainsal, a BJP MP, stated that India symbolised colonial slavery and should therefore be removed from the Constitution.

Bansal stated in a session of the parliament that Britain changed Bharat to India; our country has historically been known as Bharat for millennia, but colonialism’s Raj changed it into something more fitting of slavery: India.

What has the Indian opposition done?

They issued an ultimatum to the BJP that they not erase the Indian name from official documents.

Shashi Tharoor is an active member of the Indian National Congress Party. In a post shared on X (formerly Twitter), he expressed no constitutional concerns with calling India by its official name, ‘Bharat,’ though I do not think the government should completely abandon using the term ‘India’ due to its brand value accumulation over years of use.

He went on to emphasise: “We should maintain our claim on a name that has become internationally recognizable over time.”

The Congress is leading an opposition alliance aimed at unseating Modi in the 2024 general elections. The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), composed of 26 party alliances, has raised the possibility of changing its name to enable its success in doing so.

What has changed is our use of “Bharat”, while everyone knows India as its official name. Mamata Banerjee asked, ‘Why would the government need to suddenly change the name of our nation?”

What Next?

On September 18–22, India held a special session of parliament without providing any agenda; speculation rose as to its purpose, with many suggesting the session may serve to change India’s name.

Information Minister Arunag Takur dismissed the claim, calling it an instance of opposition propaganda.

Rasheed Kidwai is currently an associate fellow with the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, an influential think tank.

Kidwai thinks Modi “feels the heat” of his opposition due to their escalated rhetorical attacks on him.

He noted that it demonstrated the BJP’s fear. Modi has always been indispensable, yet now he finds his opponents to be an increasingly serious threat; that’s why his party wants to change India into Bharat!

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