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‘India or Bharat’ can be interchangeably used?

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    9th Sep, 2023

Context

An official invitation from President Droupadi Murmu to G-20 guests where Indian President was described as the “President of Bharat” has triggered speculation that the central government could officially change the name of “India” to “Bharat”.

Background

  • The Constituent Assembly formed in 1949 debated on how India will be mentioned in Article 1 at the time the Constitution was being drafted.
  • Before the Constitutional Assembly, the country was known as Bharat, India, and Hindustan.
  • The committee was divided into two groups, one portion preferred ‘Bharat’, and the other favoured ‘India’.
  • The Constituent Assembly then decided to use both the terms in the statement.

About

  • Article 1 of the constitution mentions India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
  • The article serves as a foundational statement that establishes India as a Union comprising individual state.
  • It clarifies the name of the country in both English (India) and Hindi (Bharat) and sets the tone for the federal structure of the Indian state, where power is divided between the central government and the states.

Debate around ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’:

  • The first debate on Article 1 was to begin on November 17, 1948. However, on the suggestion of Govind Ballabh Pant, the discussion on the name was postponed to a later date.
  • On September 17, 1949 B R Ambedkar presented to the House the final version of the provision, which included both ‘Bharat’ and ‘India’.
  • Several members expressed themselves against the use of ‘India’, which they saw as a reminder of the colonial past.
  • Bharat" is a term that resonates with many Indian languages and is viewed as more inclusive than "India," which is of foreign origin.

History of names denoting today’s India:

  • The roots of “Bharat”, “Bharata”, or “Bharatvarsha” are traced back to Puranic literature, and to the epic Mahabharata.
  • The Puranas describe Bharata as the land between the “sea in the south and the abode of snow in the north”.
  • Bharata is also the name of the ancient king of legend who was the ancestor of the Rig Vedic tribe of the Bharatas, and by extension, the progenitor of all peoples of the subcontinent.
  • The name Hindustan is thought to have derived from ‘Hindu’, the Persian cognate form of the Sanskrit ‘Sindhu’ (Indus), which came into light with the Achaemenid Persian conquest of the Indus valley (northwestern parts of the subcontinent).
  • By the time of the early Mughals (16th century), the name ‘Hindustan’ was used to describe the entire Indo-Gangetic plain.
  • From the late 18th century onwards, British maps increasingly began to use the name ‘India’, and ‘Hindustan’.

Arguments in favour of Bharat:

  • “Bharat" emphasizes a sense of national pride and identity, distinguishing India from its colonial past when it was referred to as "India."
  • Proponents of using "Bharat" argue that it has deep historical and cultural significance, tracing back to ancient Indian civilization. It is seen as a way to connect with India's rich heritage and traditions.

Arguments against the use of term ‘Bharat’:

  • Article 348(1) of the Constitution states that all proceedings in the Supreme Court and in every High Court shall be in English language until Parliament passes a law.
  • Any change of name of a country would require a constitutional amendment under Article 368.
  • Former Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice mentioned that, an amendment would be required only if the government insisted on the use of any one term or wanted to remove a particular term.
  • Critics of using "Bharat" contend that it may not be as recognizable internationally as "India."
    • They argue that maintaining the name "India" simplifies international communication and relations.
  • The use of "Bharat" may symbolize a more federal and state-centric approach, while "India" emphasizes the unity of the nation.

Do they can be used interchangeably?

  • India, that is Bharat' written in Article 1 of the Constitution is only descriptive and the two cannot be used interchangeably. It will require amendments in the Constitution.

Who has the powers to change the names?

  • India is our official name, and changing that will require a Constitutional amendment, requiring two-third majority votes from both the Houses of Parliament.
  • Also changing of names does not touch upon the basic structure doctrine.
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