Dispute over state names at G20 summit: Bharat instead of India?

As of: September 5, 2023, 7:01 p.m.

An official invitation to the G20 summit dinner reads “Bharat” instead of “India”. The opposition fears a gradual renaming of the state, in line with the Hindu nationalist agenda of Prime Minister Modi’s government.

“Mother India” (“Bharat mata ki”), the Indian Prime Minister shouts in Hindi to a group of Indians abroad during a state visit a few weeks ago. And they answer: “Yes, long live it”. “Bharat” is the other name for India alongside “India”. This is mentioned at the beginning of the Indian Constitution, and when people speak in Hindi, they often use Bharat instead of India.

“Whether it is India or Bharat, we are proud of both names,” says Radharanan Das of the Hare Krishna movement. “But it is very unfortunate when you develop such dislike and hatred for the name of our country.”

A new name on the political agenda?

The ruling Hindu nationalists actually hated the country’s name “India,” according to representatives of religious minorities and the opposition. The Hindi word “Bharat” comes from a mythological figure in Hinduism. It is now being misused to further a Hindu nationalist agenda – hence the backlash.

According to the invitation, it is the “President of Bharat” and not the “President of India” who will invite people to the G20 summit state dinner on Saturday – a brand new designation for the head of state , in this case President Draupadi Murmu. MP Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress party is stunned: “I’m really at a loss for words. It’s unbelievable. I hope the Supreme Court of India intervenes. This is about division. It’s very, very sad.”

Hindus view country names as a historical burden

Why suddenly “Bharat”? If you ask politicians from the ruling Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, it quickly becomes clear: this is not just a minor change in the invitation to the G20. “Only the invaders and others came to this wonderful country and gave it a different name,” Meenakshi Lekhi, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “And this other name has become the most common. But there is nothing wrong with reclaiming our heritage. All the chains of slavery, all the chains that limit us in our tradition and our culture, must be broken. “

“It should always have been this name”

Swaminathan Gurumurthy is the ideologue of the radical Hindu RSS, a cadre organization close to the ruling party and often described as fascist. He also supports the new name. He told India Today television: “India was wrongly called India. It was originally Bharat. That’s why it should always have been that name, everywhere in the constitution. Then it was became a different name. I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter.” The fathers of the Constitution thought about it, they did it. But we have already amended the Constitution four hundred times.”

Suspicions of opponents of a name change: The first step is to rename India in the spotlight of the G20 summit, so to speak before the eyes of the heads of state and government. Hindu nationalists do not have the majority needed to amend the constitution. But one thing is clear: the dispute over the country’s name is not one of the usual political controversies in Indian domestic politics. This is about fundamentals – and it will continue after the G20 summit.

Rosemary Rowse

"Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Web maven. Infuriatingly humble creator. Typical tv specialist. Music aficionado. Proud explorer."

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