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'India' or 'Bharat' or both

Archis Mohan 

Social activist Niranjan Bhatwal from Maharashtra has moved a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking that the country be called 'Bharat', and not 'India' as the latter is of colonial origin, and that the constitution makers intended that 'Bharat' be used for all official and unofficial purposes, and not 'India'. On Friday, the apex court asked the Centre and all state governments for their response to the PIL.

In 1949, the Constituent Assembly had debated the possible name of the newly independent country. Names suggested during the debate had ranged from Bharat, Hindustan, Hind, Bharatbhoomi, Bharatvarsha and Aryavrat. The Constituent Assembly decided to take the middle path. Article 1 of the Constitution of India states: "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States."

Yogi Adityanath, Bharatiya Janata Party's controversial MP from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, currently has a private member's bill listed in the Lok Sabha that demands 'India' be replaced by 'Hindust(h)an' - the land of the Hindus. "Article 1 should read 'Bharat, that is Hindustan…," he says, as 'India' "denotes slavery". The BJP foreign policy resolution, which was in English, released at its national executive meeting in Bengaluru in early April didn't use 'India' but only Bharat in its text.

Constitutional expert Subhash C Kashyap says both 'India' and 'Bharat' are constitutionally correct. "Article 1 of the official English version of the Constitution states: "India, that is Bharat…". The official Hindi version of the Constitution states "Bharat, arthat India…" "It is for the Supreme Court to decide but my personal opinion is that this is a non-issue when we have so many more important issues to address," Kashyap says, adding the word 'India' is not of colonial origin and 'Hindu' has its roots in 'India'.

'Bharat' is how ancient Indian texts, like the Puranas, refer to the geographical area. 'India' was first used by the Greeks and finds mention in the writings of Herodotus (5th century BC) and Megasthenes (3rd century BC), and is derived from river Sindhu or Indus. Later, Persians and then Arabs used 'Hindu' to describe the inhabitants of the subcontinent. 'Hindu', the religion, and 'Jai Hind', India's official salutation, are both derived from this.

World over, there are countries that have changed names, and those who didn't. There are others which have continued with two names - one name with which people of these countries have called themselves for centuries, and the other name that foreigners have used to describe them.

First Published: Sat, April 25 2015. 22:26 IST