‘India’ to ‘Bharat’ is the news on G20 that’s grabbing US media attention

G-20 — IANS

By T.N. Ashok

Washington, Sep 7 (IANS) On the eve of US President Joe Biden’s arrival in New Delhi in India to attend the high-profile G20 Summit, US media has been gripped with speculation as to whether India will change its name to ‘Bharat’ in accordance with its ancestral roots before the Mughal and British colonial domination of the country.

The Indian President Droupadi Murmu’s invite to the world leaders for an official banquet issued in the name of ‘Bharat’ and not India has not only created a stir in Indian media but also fuelled speculation overseas if Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to change the name to Bharat in accordance with the early Hindu tradition of it being ‘Bharat’ which was anglicised by the British to India, media reports said.

A section of the US media said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has not confirmed replacing ‘India’ with ‘Bharat’ — but has also not explained changes in G20 invites, reports said.

A new Indian government document calling India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi the “Prime Minister of Bharat” has added to swirling rumours that the country could get a name change,” the Independent said in its US edition. 

On Wednesday, US newspapers were full of photos of the document on Modi’s current visit to Indonesia, just two days before India plays host to scores of foreign leaders in its capital New Delhi for the high-profile G20 summit India is hosting. 

Last year the G20 leadership was held by Indonesia and the summit concluded in Bali when the baton was handed over to India.

India has been hosting several ministerial meetings throughout the year with foreign and economic ministers attending them so as to prepare a blueprint for further progress of the G20 groupings’ continued pursuit of cherished goals to eradicate poverty, enhance education, fight global terrorism and economic development among the countries.

Just a day earlier, a debate on the country’s name kicked up a political storm when an official G20 invite for foreign dignitaries with Indian President Murmu referred to her as the “President of Bharat”, the Independent noted.

The invite has fanned speculation that the Indian government is considering changing the country’s name to “Bharat”, a term that has its origins in the Sanskrit language and that is used colloquially to refer to India. The first clause in the Indian constitution under which the Prime Minister owes allegiance to India also says, “India, that is, Bharat …under which he takes the oath of office.”

The new document designates Modi as the “Prime Minister of Bharat” and not “Prime Minister of India”, which has been the format for more than 75 years, which is now being celebrated as the ‘Amrit Kal’ (The period of elixir).

Photos of the document that has caused much stir within India and speculation overseas began circulating on Wednesday, ahead of Modi’s diplomatic engagement for the 20th ASEAN-India summit and the 18th East Asia summit. The US Vice-President Kamala Harris would be attending the meet. 

The social media bio on Twitter/X still says “Prime Minister of India” but some leaders and government officials have begun using the term “Bharat”.

The ID cards of India’s officials at the G20 summit will also read “Bharat — Official”, demonstrating a major international push by the Modi administration at the biggest international stage that will see the presence of Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, Emanuel Macaron, Fumio Kishida and Anthony Albanese, among several others attending, making this the G20 summit the biggest event in India after the Commonwealth summit at Bengaluru in the 80’s. 

“Bharat”, the word that dates back to ancient Indian scriptures, has not been a commonly used term for India’s domestic and international correspondence ever since it gained independence from British rule in 1947, reports said.

The name change call has gained momentum with members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claiming they want to get rid of the colonial “English” name and give a true representation of the Hindu culture and Bharat as it was called in ancient times before the colonial rule of the British.

Recent media reports have revealed that a “special session” of the Indian Parliament taking place this month could be the venue for Modi to announce its intention to officially rename the country. 

Indian media has been speculating that the special session is to pass the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) even as Indian bureaucrats work double time to rewrite the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to reflect the aspirations of a modern India, a transition from British India to Independent India, while also taking into account the scrapping of Article 370 which had granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, part of which is occupied by the belligerent neighbour Pakistan since partition.

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