This Article is written by Nishant Singh and Chinmay Kasture from Government Law College, Mumbai (MH).
The politicisation of renaming the country is a part of the social production of our nation. In these modern times, the understanding of the difference between right and wrong, ethical and non-ethical actions, and the recognition of our culture and ethos has been taken a step backwards.
At the time when the whole world was dealing with a health disaster, a petition to rename India to Bharat came as a surprise. A Delhi based businessman filed a PIL seeking the amendment of Article 1 of the Constitution.The petitioner argued that the removal of this English name India, though appears symbolic,but would instil a sense of pride in our nationality, especially for the generations to come. This effort could be the pioneer spatial exploration of an affair that has been undermined so far. It is an attempt to unwind the geographical reality of our country as it has evolved overtime by digging into the mystery embedded in its subcontinental history.
Though the petition filed by the Delhi-based businessman was dismissed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the ground that India is already referred to as “Bharat” in the Constitution. The court did suggest the petitioner to present his plea in the form of a representation concerning the respective ministries of the Indian government. This issue prima facie might look like an absolute waste of time and resources but on the contrary, it is very important to recognize the fact that a name carries a lot of importance, not only do names give recognition but also tell a story of the past, help to understand the present and also influences the future. Not only does it impact socially but also psychologically. And the importance is multifold in the present case as these two terms India and Bharat have had a long and complex history.
The issue here is that,should our country be recognized by its “original” and “authentic name” Bharat or continue with the name India. Further, certain questions arise here :
- Whether the removal of this English name is something that would instill nationalistic fervour?
- Does the present name depict a symbol of slavery which was a cause of the sufferings of our ancestors who got us the hard-won freedom from foreign rule?
India that is Bharat
When the constitution was being drafted, a heated argument had ensued about the naming of the country in a way that would be most suitable to the sentiments of the multicultural, vivacious population. The drafting committee was setup under the chairmanship of Dr. B.R Ambedkar on August 29, 1947, but the section ‘name and territory of the Union’ came up for discussion only on September 17, 1949. A debate arose within the committee as soon as the very first article i.e. ‘India that is Bharat shall be a union of states’ was readout. Several prominent leaders suggested amendments in this, like Hari Vishnu Kamath, a member of the Forward Bloc proposed that the above-discussed article be replaced as ‘Bharat, or in the English language, India, shall be a Union of states’ while Seth Govind Das representing the Central Provinces suggested replacing the above-discussed article with ‘Bharat known as India also in foreign countries.’ However, none of these suggestions was accepted by the committee.
There have been many other instances since then where this matter was raised. This matter also finds its place in the anti-Western or anti-English campaign. For example in April 2004, the Samajwadi Party made a proposition to adopt the sole name ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution as a stern step to protect the authenticity and identification of our country, they also suggested other suitable economic and political measures to end the cultural degradation being encouraged by the Western materialist lifestyle.
To recall another instance, Congress MP Shantaram Naik introduced a private member bill on August 9, 2012, in the Upper House of Parliament (RajyaSabha) to amend the first article. Major changes suggested by him were that the word India in the Preamble to our Constitution to be swapped with the word ‘Bharat’; and that this substitution is followed throughout the Constitution. Stating his reasons, the Member of Parliament said: ‘India’ denotes a territorial concept, whereas ‘Bharat’ signifies much more than the mere territories of India. When we are celebrating a proud moment for our country we chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and not ‘India ki Jai’.There are a variety of grounds for changing the name of the country and renaming it to ‘Bharat’. The name also generates a sense of patriotism and electrifies the people of this country. In the year 2015, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court by a social activist, Niranjan Bhatwal seeking an unambiguous understanding of Article 1 of the Constitution. The counsel for the petitioner argued that the word India is not a precise translation of the term Bharat and that India was a colonial name. However, the petition was declined by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) when the court issued notices to all state governments and union territories. In its affidavit, the MHA said that the issues concerning the country name has been deliberated upon extensively by the Constituent Assembly. Hence, there is no need for a review.
Origin of the name “Bharat”
Why does the name Bharat mean so much to citizen of India? It is because it has its roots much deeper in our culture and mythology which goes back to the Brahmanical age. Bharat is the Sanskrit original name that we got in ancient times and there are several mythological theories explaining the nomenclature. According to the Rig Veda’s 18th hymn of the seventh book, a terrible war known as ‘Dashrajna’ was fought between ten powerful tribes who plotted to overthrow King Sudasa of the Bharata tribe of Trtsu Dynasty. Sudasa came out victorious over the confederacy of ten kings. This war made him a prevalent figure and the people started recognizing themselves as members of the Bharata tribe. Similarly, it also finds its presence in the ancient Indian text Vishnu Purana which refers to our nation as the country that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains and named it Bharatam; because there dwell the descendants Bharata. In the Indian epic “Mahabharata”, Bharata was a legendary emperor and founder of the Bharata Dynasty.
The name India, on the other hand, is much likely believed to have originated from Sindhu (Sanskrit word), which means ‘the sea’ and refers to the river Indus. It is proposed that slender semasiological changes resulted in the Persians summoning this region on the banks of the Indus River as ‘India’. It was later on espoused as India by the Roman and Greek writers. Initially, it was analogous with the Indus, but later on, it also turned out to be an expression for the land area between the Indus and the Ganges. British apprehension of the name India, therefore, is influenced by the ancient Greek and Latin writings as well as from contemporary European writings. Well, this explains why an Indian common man would feel more attached to the name Bharat rather than India. It is consistent with our history and folklore and is also contemporary to the ancient Indian mythology. However, the word India is inconspicuous in our ancient books.
Article 1(1) of the Constitution states “India that is Bharat shall be a Union of States.” Though the name India is persistently used in further sections of our Constitution, whereas, Bharat on the other hand, makes an appearance by a hair’s breadth. The purpose of this article was to look at some of the inherited discourses on ‘Bharat’ antecedent to and its official equation with ‘India’ in the Constitution of 1950 in a cultural history frame of reference, we also understand that there is a political discourse over the issue with a range of differing views.
It will be appropriate to conclude that the name Bharat elucidates our primitive ethnic affinity more strongly than India. So, the first thing that the Indian government should have done after independence was to get rid of the name India. Since, this topic has been brought to light now, instead of perceiving it as a waste of time and resources, we should utilize this window of opportunity to reinstate the name Bharat for our country.
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