MERA BHARAT MAHAN…YEH MERA INDIA

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The President of Bharat has invited the G 20 Summit dignitaries for dinner. Along with that, she has invited lots of commentary from across the country. A first lot of people who see everything ‘English’ as non-Indian are rubbing their hands in glee. The second lot of people who feel that anything done by the ruling dispensation ought to be countered are crying foul. Finally, those who are not clouded by any kind of partisan thinking are wondering what this fuss is all about. Op-Eds in newspapers argue for duality, diverse ideas of nationhood etc., and conclude that there is no harm in retaining both names.

‘Bharata’ as a term, predates ‘India’. Bharata was a legendary Chandravanshi king in Hindu literature, who became a Chakravarti or universal monarch. He is regarded to be the ancestor of the Pandavas, the Kauravas, Brihadrata and Jarasandha. The Bharatas, a prominent historical tribe mentioned in the Rig Veda are regarded to be the descendants of Bharata. The legend of Bharata features in the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata, where he is mentioned as the son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. According to popular tradition, Bharata, the traditional name of the Indian sub-continent, is named after Bharata (Source: Wikipedia). Lord Krishna too, addresses Arjuna as  “O Bharata” in the Bhagwad Gita on several occasions.

The founding fathers of our Constitution were no fools when they wrote out Article 1 of the Indian Constitution which reads “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” Legal eagles opine that there is, therefore, no need for any constitutional amendment to call India, ‘Bharat’. However, if the Preamble to the Constitution has to be changed to read “We, the people of Bharat…”, that would require an amendment under Article 368. So, if the Government of the day deems it prudent and they have the numbers required in both houses of Parliament to approve the amendment, nothing can stop it. Screaming and shouting will not help.

There is also the ‘opposition combine’ angle. The leaders of the combine got together and decided to call themselves the Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.), with the full understanding that nobody would individually call out each alphabet while referring to the alliance and that they would be called INDIA. Perhaps, they thought it may give them some political advantage by being known by an acronym that spells the same as the country’s name. Be that as it may, there does not appear to be any mechanism for the Election Commission of India (ECI) to ascertain if a certain acronym is appropriate or not. That is surprising because they are empowered to approve or disapprove election symbols. Further, the debate on the appropriateness of such an acronym has been raging since it was first reported on 18 July 2023. Nobody, including the ECI or the courts has taken cognizance of the confusion and unintended consequences of such renaming. The rewording of the President’s invitation to the G 20 Summit delegates is perhaps one such unintended consequence.

That is not all. Such renaming would have other areas of confusion too. Acronyms such as BRICS, BIMSTEC etc., would need to be recoined. The Indian Ocean would need to be named Bharatiya Mahasagar, which may not be as easy as it seems. The Indo-Pacific Region may have to be called Bharato-Pacific and Air India rechristened Air Bharat. In fact, the changes would be so many, across different domains that it may generate a new kind of employment, just for creating new names and acronyms. It is my guess that no country or entity outside India (or Bharat) would work up a sweat with what we want to call ourselves or how we write our invitation cards. We just need to be practical, retain both names, use them flexibly where they suit our interests and spare ourselves the agony of unintended consequences.

Mera Bharat Mahaan, Yeh Mera India, Saare Jahan Se Achchha Hindustan Hamara.

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