A CURIOUS controversy has stalked India ever since the G20 leaders were sent dinner invitations from the president of Bharat, instead of the usual president of India. Two names were given to the country by the framers of India’s constitution. Article 1 of the constitution speaks of “India, that is Bharat”. Nehru made a reference to Bharat in his Discovery of India, a seminal book on the history of the new nation in the making. He wrote in prison. “Often, as I wandered from meeting to meeting, I spoke to my audience of this India of ours, of Hindustan and of Bharata, the old Sanskrit name derived from the mythical founder of the race.” Ace historian Irfan Habib says the idea of ‘Bharat Mata’ is a European import as is ‘maadar-i-watan’. He says ‘Bharat’ was used as a name in Prakrit script for his country in the first-century BC by the king of Kalinga. Hindu revivalists used ‘Hindustan’, ie, place of Hindus. “Hindustan is the land of the Hindus and is the terra firma for the Hindu nation alone to flourish upon”. Thus proclaimed Guru Golwalkar of the RSS in 1939. The RSS was in the company of the first Mughal Emperor Babar who it reviles with little evidence as the destroyer of a temple in Ayodhya. “Hindustan is a country of few charms,” Babar noted in his lauded memoirs.
In recent years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been promoting a new industrial policy he calls, ‘Make in India’. Above all, his government told the Indian supreme court in 2015 in an affidavit that there was no need to change the name of the country from India to ‘Bharat’. So, what has happened now? There’s speculation that the opposition’s new collective name, INDIA, the acronym for the Indian National Inclusive Development Alliance, is worrying the government ahead of the general elections in May.
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2023