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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

“India or Bharat: The Naming Debate Ignited by PM Modi’s G20 Placard”

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Group of 20 (G20) leaders’ summit on Saturday, his choice of a country name placard stirred significant interest. Instead of the customary international name “India,” the placard prominently featured “Bharat,” the Sanskrit or Hindi title for India. This decision ignited speculation about whether Modi’s government intends to gradually phase out the country’s English designation.

Following the event, headlines in major Indian news outlets, such as the Times of India, one of the country’s largest English-language publications, ran with titles like “PM Modi uses placard Bharat for G20 inaugural address.” Hindi outlet ABP News posed the question, “Is it an indication of new beginnings?”

It’s crucial to remember that in this varied country of 1.4 billion people, with over 20 recognized languages, both “India” and “Bharat” hold official status. Additionally, “Bharat” is commonly used interchangeably and is even printed on Indian passports as the Hindi word for India.

The naming issue gained prominence when invitations to the Group of 20 (G20) leaders’ summit referred to India as “Bharat.” This choice ignited a political dispute and prompted a public debate over the country’s name, its historical context, and its colonial legacy. The use of “Bharat” on these invitations marked a noteworthy departure from India’s traditional naming convention on the international stage. Moreover, Indian officials at the G20 event were seen wearing badges that read “Bharat Official.”

For India, the G20 summit signifies a fresh opportunity, with Prime Minister Modi seeking to enhance New Delhi’s global influence after nearly a decade in power during which he positioned himself as a leader dedicated to shedding the vestiges of the country’s colonial past. He has consistently emphasized the imperative to “liberate ourselves from the slavery mindset.”

India endured British colonial rule for approximately 200 years before gaining independence in 1947. Modi has been resolute in his efforts to disrupt India’s colonial legacy, undertaking measures to distance the country from what he perceives as the enduring influences of British rule. These initiatives encompass renaming roads and buildings that previously celebrated India’s Muslim identity and its historical Islamic leaders, the Mughals, who left an indelible mark on the subcontinent. Instead, these changes celebrate the country’s Hindu majority.

Supporters of Modi argue that the name “India,” which is globally recognized, is a vestige of the colonial era. The term “India” has ancient roots, derived from the Sanskrit word “Sindhu,” originally referring to the Indus River. Western civilizations later adopted this term, which was subsequently embraced by the British Empire.

Harnath Singh Yadav, a BJP politician, stated in an interview with the Indian news agency ANI, “The word ‘India’ is an abuse given to us by the British, whereas the word ‘Bharat’ is a symbol of our culture.”

Even former Indian cricket star Virender Sehwag joined the discourse by urging cricket officials to feature “Bharat” on players’ shirts during the Men’s Cricket World Cup, slated to be held in India this year.

However, the utilization of “Bharat” on the G20 invitations has elicited criticism from opposition leaders. Shashi Tharoor, a former diplomat and prominent lawmaker from the main opposition Congress party, voiced concerns about discarding the name “India,” which has accrued significant brand value over centuries.

In July, leaders from 26 Indian opposition parties formed an alliance known as INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), with the goal of challenging Modi in the upcoming general election. Some opposition politicians suggested that the government’s adoption of “Bharat” might be a response to the formation of the INDIA alliance.

Aam Aadmi Party lawmaker Raghav Chadha, a member of the alliance, expressed his viewpoint on social media, stating, “How can the BJP strike down ‘INDIA’? The country doesn’t belong to a political party; it belongs to [all] Indians. Our national identity is not the BJP’s personal property that it can modify on whims and fancies.”

India’s Minister of External Affairs, S. Jaishankar, highlighted the importance of “Bharat” by pointing out its inclusion in the constitution in an interview with the local news agency ANI. As he put it, “When you say ‘Bharat,’ it evokes a distinct sense, meaning, and connotation.”


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