Should India be Renamed as 'Bharat'?
Written by Saksham Srivastava
Fourth Year, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala
Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed below represent the opinions of the article's author. The following does not necessarily represent the views of Law & Order.
“What’s in a name”, Juliet asks in a play written by William Shakespeare. Well, I would say our identity, glorious history and true origin. Name is the identity of a person, a family or even a country,after all, every name has its own history. Without a name the personality is incomplete, it is the name that makes them original and special. It is a basic supposition that gets printed in our subconscious brain.
India/ Bharat is a mix of various religions, culture, festivals, traditions and both of these names contain a totally different viewpoint and origin.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as a respect for the rich cultural heritage of the country wrote in his book ‘The Discovery of India’ , that wherever he went he spoke to his audience of India, of Hindustan, of Bharat. It is believed that Nehru took note of these names intentionally.
However, four years down the line, when the Constitution of India came into force, it dropped one of the three names identified by Nehru and mentioned India and Bharat as the official names of the country. During the Constituent Assembly debate, various names such as Bharat, Hindustan, Bharatbhoomi, Bharatvarsha were suggested. While some wanted to discard the word ‘India’ completely, others wanted to change the manner in which Article 1(1) was drafted. H.V Kamath had proposed an amendment to Article 1 by putting Bharat or Hind as the primary name of the country. Similarly, Seth Govind Das suggested that the language of the draft was not beautiful and that “Bharat is known as India in foreign countries” should be used. He cited the Puranas, the Vedas, Mahabharat and the writings of Hiuen-Tsang to prove that the original name of the country is Bharat. Another prominent personality to support the name ‘Bharat’ was Kamalpati Tripathi, he was of the opinion that the name ‘Bharat’ will help the country gain its inner consciousness and external form. Shri Hargovind Pant also wanted the name ‘Bharat’ or ‘Bharatvarsha’, discarding the name ‘India’ completely as he believed it was the name given to us by the invaders who after having heard of the riches of this land were tempted to rob it. Among others who supported India being named only as ‘Bharat’ included K.V Rao, B.M Gupta, Sriram Sahay, M.A Ayyangar, Sri Kallur Subba Rao etc. But at the end, when Rajendra Prasad put the amendments to vote, the assembly was divided by 38:51 and it was negated.
Owing to the conflict of thoughts on this issue various attempts have been made to rename the country. In the year 2004, the Samajwadi Party proposed to use the name ‘Bharat’ in order to protect the identity of the country. In 2005, V. Sundaram suggested using ‘Bharat’ as the sole official name of the country. Former C.M Uma Bharti also opined that ‘India’ gives a sense of westernisation and therefore only ‘Bharat’ should be used. Later in 2012, B.S Yeddyurappa proposed an amendment to the Constitution to rename ‘India’ as ‘Bharat’. In the same year INC member Shantaram Naik proposed a bill in Rajya Sabha with the same suggestion. Later in 2014, Yogi Adityanath moved a Private member bill in Lok Sabha suggesting the replacement of the word ‘India’ with ‘Hindustan’.
To rename ‘India’ as ‘Bharat’, the doors of the Apex Court have also been knocked twice. Once in the year 2014, in the case of Niranjan Batwal v. Union of India and then in the year 2020, in the case of Namah v. Union of India. In both cases, the Court suggested forwarding the representation to the Government and Ministries. The response by the Government in the first case was not favourable, whereas in the second case the response remains awaited.
It is worth noticing here that, it is not about renaming India as Bharat, it always had this name. The question is actually two-fold: firstly, whether Bharat should be the primary name of this country and should be used everywhere and secondly, should the name India be discarded in toto. In order to arrive at a conclusion, it is necessary to understand the arguments in favour and those against renaming India as Bharat.
Those who favour the renaming of India to Bharat argue that:
● The world map has seen changes in the names and boundaries of the countries by those who believed in their true identity. It’s time for India to do what nations like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Ghana, Mexico etc. have done, rename itself.
● When a country enslaves/colonises the other, the first thing it does is changing its name. Giving it a name with no meaning, this is called the technology of Dominance or Enslaving. India does not have a meaning, but Bharat does. It means the cherished, the one with glory, the one devoted to knowledge.
● The word ‘India’ is said to have been derived from the word Indus, the Sindhu river. But technically, a major part of it flows through Pakistan. So, more than us Pakistan has the right to use the word ‘India’.
● Since the Europeans had a problem pronouncing eastern names, they changed the names as per their own convenience without respecting the identity and sentiment of the natives of the country. This name which we follow till date needs to be changed.
● Renaming the nation as Bharat will justify the struggle of our freedom fighters and help citizens to get over the colonial past.
● As per Catherine Ojha, Bharat was not just a geographical territory but a cultural and religious entity.
● Since a name plays a vital role in everyone’s life. Then the country in which we live and identify ourselves , should also have an inspiring name. ‘Bharat’ has a logical, spiritual, unique and appealing meaning that ‘India’ lacks. The word ‘India’ is just a result of the corruption of words.
While on one hand there are those who contend to rename India as Bharat, on the other, there are those who oppose this stance. Those against this argue that:
● The citizens already call it Bharat, there is no need to change it for the outsiders. Countries like Germany, Japan and Spain also have two names, one that the world uses and the other that the locals use. There is no shame in being called by a name that the world already uses.
● India is not a new name neither is it a symbol of the colonial regime. Usage of the name ‘India’ can be traced back to Herodotus (450B.C.E), Megasthenes (350 B.C.E), Maps of Plotemy etc.
● Discarding the name ‘India’ can have a negative impact on the country as we would lose the legacy of Indus Valley Civilisation linked to the name. Also, the strategic authority that India has over the ocean named after it i.e the Indian Ocean will be lost.
● India never had only one name. It has always been referred to, by a number of names such as Aryavarta, Jambudveep, Bharat, Hindustan etc.
● The word ‘India’ has a lot of historical significance. This is one of the reasons why Jinnah wanted that the country should be named Hindustan not India.
● If India discards this name, countries like Malaysia, Burma, Thailand can claim it.
● Renaming will do nothing more than creating an elusive belief that the country’s shackles have broken.
Though these arguments are not exhaustive, they are helpful in understanding the reason behind, why those who want to rename, want so, and those who do not, don’t. Analysing the Constituent Assembly debates, various attempts, and arguments in favour and against renaming ‘India’ as ‘Bharat’ what the author suggests is that, ‘Bharat’ should be the primary name of the country, but the name ‘India’ should also not be discarded.
The name ‘Bharat’ for its people has a lot of significance, it reminds them of the heritage and culture it possessed and a part of which it still does. It inspires among people the passion for their nation and reminds them of the rich history attached to it.
Bharat has a meaning to which people can relate, be proud of. They have an emotional attachment to it. Therefore, ‘Bharat’ should be the primary name of the country and should be used for all the purposes. However, the name ‘India’ can also not be discarded completely as it also has a history and a legacy of its own. Discarding it might loosen the strategic and moral authority that we have over the Indian Ocean. Those who believe that the name ‘India’ was given to us by the British in an attempt to colonise must understand that the name ‘India’ is also more than a thousand years old. It is not the symbol of the colonial regime, but only how the world used to call us.
So, in principle, the author’s suggestion is to amend Article 1(1) of the Constitution to “Bharat, that is India, shall be a Union of States”.
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4. Rajendra Sharma, M.P Home Minister supports replacing India with Bharat, THE TIMES OF INDIA, (July 11, 2020, 02:50 PM), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/mp-home-minister-supports-replacing-india-with-bharat-says-it-gives-a-feeling-of-affinity/articleshow/76164376.cms.
5. PTI, Pvt. Member bill to replace word India with Bharat in Constitution, HINDUSTAN TIMES, (July 11, 2020, 02:52 PM), https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/pvt-member-bill-to-replace-word-india-with-bharat-in-constitution/story-kpFGXhzE6SdWKq9coZUtaP.html.
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