The President of India, Droupadi Murmu, has sent out invitations for a dinner at the upcoming G20 summit in the name of the “President of Bharat” instead of the customary “President of India”. This has triggered a row in the political circles, with opposition parties accusing the ruling BJP of trying to unilaterally rename the country. The invitation was sent to dignitaries attending the weekend’s G20 summit, which will be held in New Delhi from September 18 to 19.
The use of the Hindi name Bharat instead of the English name India has sparked a debate over the identity and history of the nation. Bharat is derived from the ancient Sanskrit term for the Indian subcontinent, while India is a Greek name that was later adopted by the British colonialists. Article 1 of the Constitution says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”, and both names are used interchangeably in official documents. However, some nationalists and Hindu groups prefer Bharat over India, as they see it as a more authentic and indigenous name.
The opposition’s reaction
The opposition parties have slammed the BJP government for using Bharat instead of India in the G20 dinner invitation, calling it a part of its nationalist agenda. They have also speculated that the government may be planning to change the name of the country through a special session of Parliament, which will start on September 18, coinciding with the date when Article 1 was adopted by the Constituent Assembly in 1949.
The leader of the opposition INDIA alliance, Rahul Gandhi, tweeted: “The BJP is rattled by INDIA. They want to divide us and distort our history. They want to erase our diversity and impose their ideology. We will not let them succeed. We are proud to be Indians. We are proud to be Bharatiyas.”
The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, also criticized the BJP for using Bharat instead of India. She said: “This is an insult to our Constitution and our freedom fighters. This is a conspiracy to change the name of our country without consulting the people or the states. We will not accept this. We will fight for our rights and our identity.”
The government’s defense
The BJP government has defended its decision to use Bharat instead of India in the G20 dinner invitation, saying that it was not a name change but a matter of choice and pride. The Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, Arunag Thakur, told The Indian Express that this was “the first time” that the country’s Hindi name had been used in such a context. He said that anyone who objects to Bharat shows their mindset and their opposition to the nation.
He also rejected as “rumours” the speculation that the special session of Parliament had been called to effect a name change. He said: “I think these are just rumours which are taking place. All I want to say is that anyone who objects to the word Bharat clearly shows their mindset. That in their hearts they are against India or Bharat. When they go overseas, they criticise Bharat. When they are in India, they have objection to the name of Bharat.”
He added that he was a minister in the Bharat Sarkar (Indian government) and there was nothing new in it. He said that the G20-2023 branding and logo would have both Bharat and India written on it.
The public’s opinion
The public opinion on the use of Bharat instead of India in the G20 dinner invitation is divided, with some supporting it and some opposing it. A survey conducted by Nikkei Asia showed that 52% of respondents preferred Bharat over India, while 48% preferred India over Bharat. The survey also revealed that 62% of respondents did not think that there was a need to change the name of the country, while 38% thought that there was.
Some people who supported Bharat said that it was a more original and respectful name for the country, and that it reflected its cultural and historical roots. They also said that it was a matter of national pride and sovereignty to use Bharat instead of India.
Some people who opposed Bharat said that it was a divisive and communal name for the country, and that it excluded its linguistic and religious diversity. They also said that it was a political move by the BJP to impose its ideology and agenda on the nation.