President Droupadi Murmu. (PTI File Photo)
When you take out a rupee note to buy something, you will find two prominent names — the Reserve Bank of India, written in Latin script, and the Bharatiya Reserve Bank in Devanagari script — which together provide legality, credibility and value to a piece of paper and make it a currency.
Yet not once in the last 75 years has anyone had any shred of doubt over the Indianness of these two names, because for the people of our country, it has been a truism that India and Bharat are one and the same.
That all that changed with just one invitation card must be a comment on our anxiety-riddled collective state of mind. In a formal invitation card that President Droupadi Murmu extended to visiting dignitaries of G-20 nations, the inviter was referred to as the President of Bharat, triggering huge backlash from several quarters.
Our country has always been called Bharat in native languages, while it is called India in English and several foreign languages. It is perhaps a first that our country has been referred to as Bharat in an official communication and that sets off speculation over the present government’s intent to resort to changes in nomenclature to reflect this.
Critics inveigh against both context and timing. Opposition parties believe that the Narendra Modi government has stopped using the name, India, because they branded themselves as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance of which I.N.D.I.A. is the acronym and that Prime Minister Modi does not want to give recall value to them by using the word in any manner.
Even if Opposition parties were correct in their assessment, the government, or for that matter anyone else, should be able to call the country by any one of the acceptable names. For, both Bharat and India are the same and can be used interchangeably.
If the incumbent President wants to call herself the President of Bharat, so be it. If the Prime Minister wants to be known as the Prime Minister of Bharat, he is absolutely entitled to it because it does not violate any of the provisions of the Constitution.
Nevertheless, if the government decides to disassociate the country from the name, India, it would be doing a great disservice to our motherland. Just like the people of this country have called our ancient land Bharat for thousands of years, foreigners have been calling this country India since antiquity.
The written reference to India or its Latin variation, Indos, goes back over 3,000 years. Our country is the only one in this world to have an ocean named after it. India is also the sole nation whose name is integral to many geographies, countries or identities such as the Indian subcontinent, the Indo-China region, West Indies, Red Indians, and so on.
If Bharat reminds us of our hoary past, culture, and civilisation, India is a brand that had Europeans set sail in its search. India is still a great civilisational brand, alive and breathing, whose rival is only China.
Many countries are known by two names — one in the native language and the other in a foreign language — such as Japan/Nippon, Germany/Deutschland, Ireland/ Éire, French Republic/République Française, Norway/Norge and so on.
The ruling and Opposition parties, therefore, should not create unnecessary controversy over the dual identity of our nation, which is both India, that is Bharat, as well as Bharat, that is India.