NEW DELHI, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Invitations from India’s President Draupadi Mormo, who calls herself the “President of Bharat,” to a dinner on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit has fueled speculation that the government may be about to change the country’s name.
What is the controversy over the name India?
Traditionally, invitations issued by Indian constitutional bodies have always mentioned the name India when the text is in English, and Bharat when the text is in Hindi.
However, the invitations – in English – to attend the G20 gala dinner are called Bharat’s Murmo President.
An official in the president’s office said they did not want to comment on this issue when asked by Reuters.
Given the Hindu nationalist ideology of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and its drive to increase the use of Hindi, critics have responded to the use of Bharat in calls by suggesting that the government was pushing for an official name change.
Over the years, Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has changed the colonial names of towns and cities, claiming to help India move beyond what it calls a slavery mentality.
What is the official name of the country?
In English, the South Asian giant is called India, while in Indian languages it is also called Bharat, Paratha and Hindustan.
The preamble to the English version of the Constitution begins with the words “We the People of India…”, and then in the first part of the document states that “India, that is, Bharat, shall be a union of States.”
In the Hindi language, the Constitution replaces India with the word Bharat everywhere, except for the part that specifies the names of the countries, which says in Hindi: “Bharat, that is, India, shall be a union of states.”
Changing the name of India to just Bharat would require an amendment to the Constitution that would need to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament.
Will the government officially change the name?
For some, the timing of the controversy is suggestive.
The incident comes just days after the government announced a surprise five-day extraordinary session of Parliament later this month, without revealing any agenda. This move sparked unconfirmed reports that the name change could be discussed and approved during the session.
There has been no confirmation that such a move is in the works, but members of the government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have suggested that the name Bharat should take priority over India.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological father of the BJP, has always insisted on calling the country Bharat.
A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
What is the history of both names?
Both names have existed for more than two thousand years.
While some supporters of the name Bharat say that British colonists called it “India,” historians say that the name predates colonial rule by centuries.
India originates from the Indus River, which was called Sindhu in Sanskrit. Travelers from as far away as Greece had been identifying the area southeast of the Indus River as India even before Alexander the Great’s Indian campaign in the third century BC.
The name Bharat is even older, as it was mentioned in ancient Indian scriptures. But according to some experts, it was used as a term of social and cultural identity rather than geography.
(Reporting by Krishn Kaushik; Editing by William Maclean).
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