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CHANGE OF NAME FROM INDIA TO BHARAT


Centuries ago Shakespeare used the phrase “What’s in a name?” in his famous play Romeo and Juliet. This adage implies that the name of a thing doesn’t matter as much as the qualities possessed by it. Further, ever since it was penned, the phrase gained global recognition and stood the test of time. However, a few days back it failed to hold good in India when the very name of the country was challenged. This happened when a petition was filed before the Supreme Court of India, to amend the name of the country from India to Bharat or Hindustan.


THE ISSUE

The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the CJI and comprising of Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy dealt with a petition filed by a Delhi based petitioner. The petition revolved around seeking directions by the Hon’ble SC for the central government to amend Article 1 of the constitution and change the official name of the country from India to Bharat or Hindustan.


THE COURT PROCEEDING

Advocate Ashwin Vaish, on behalf of the petitioner, stated that there is a need for such an amendment due to the history of the country. He further contended that the English name fails to represent the culture and tradition of the nation. This is because it has a Greek origin and reminds people of the years of slavery faced by the country. Hence, it is imperative to change its name to Bharat to instill a sense of patriotism and pride among the citizens. The counsel relied on the recent amendments in the names of certain states as per Indian ethos. He argued the need to recognize the country by its original and authentic name ‘Bharat’.


Replying to the contention the bench stated “Why have you come here? India is already called Bharat in the Constitution under Article 1.” The court highlighted the Constituent assembly debates on this issue while farming the Constitution. As it was after these heated debates that ‘India that is Bharat’ found place in the Constitution.


Further dismissing the petition the court held that the plea could be treated as a representation to the government and there is nothing else that the Court could do in this case.


THE DIFFERENT NAMES OF INDIA

India is among the few countries in the world known for its glorious past. Article 1 of the Constitution of India states, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states.” Jawaharlal Nehru in his work ‘Discovery of India’ penned down the different names of the nation, such as India, Bharata, Hindustan, etc. Four years after the book got published, the Constitution came into force. Apart from these three names, there are several other nomenclatures used across the point of time to describe this South Asian Subcontinent.

These nomenclatures changed with time and include names like-

  • MELUHA- As per the ancient Mesopotamian literature, this is the oldest known name of the nation and owes its origin to the Indus Valley Civilization.

  • ARYAVARTA- This word was used to name the nation in the Manu Smriti and was dominant during the Indo-Aryan Civilization.

  • BHARAT- First found in the Puranas, this name is among the two names recognized in the constitution of the country. This name found popularity during the struggle of India for independence by way of phrases like ‘BHARAT MATA KI JAI.’

  • HINDUSTAN/HIND- Darius, the Persian ruler, described the land across the Sindhu River as ‘Sindh’. This was later changed to Hind, as Persians pronounce letter ‘s’ as ‘h’. Darius called this subcontinent as the land of Hind or Hindustan. Hindustan is thus derived from two words ‘Hind’ and ‘Sthan’.

  • INDIA- it was Alexander who added a Greek touch to the word ‘Hind’ given by the Persians. Greeks often take ‘h’ to be silent in their vocabulary and thus everything that had a prefix ‘hind’ changed to ‘Ind’. This eventually gave us the present name India.

Apart from these names, some other prominent nomenclatures used for present India included, Jambudvipa, Dravida, Nabhivarsa, etc.

THE DEBATE BEHIND THE NAME OF INDEPENDENT INDIA

Owing to the myriad names held by the nation, over the entire period of history, the debate while finalizing the name of independent India was meant to take place. Post-independence, a Constituent Assembly was set up under the Chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on August 29, 1947. The committee went for elongated discussions on each article before finalizing the constitution. When the matter of article 1, dealing with the ‘name and territory of the union’ took place before the house, the views stood divided.

The first article states - ‘India, that is Bharat shall be a union of states’. Many members of the assembly opposed the proposed wordings and gave the following alternatives-


Shri H.V. KAMATH stated that the first article should be amended to state ‘Bharat, or in the English language, India, shall be and such.’ For this, he placed reliance on the Irish Free State, which changed its name to represent its authenticity after achieving independence.


HARI GOVIND PANT represented the hill districts and expressed on their behalf the desire to be called “Bharatvarsha and nothing else”.


SETH GOVIND DAS proposed the article be changed to “Bharat known as India also in

foreign countries”. He further stated that- “Naming has always been and is even today of great significance in our country. “India, that is, Bharat" are not beautiful words for, the name of a country. We should have put the words “Bharat known as India also in foreign countries”. That would have been much more appropriate than the former expression. We should, however, at least have the satisfaction that we are today giving to our country the name of Bharat.”


However, none of the suggestions given by the members were accepted by the committee. During a vote on the question of amendment in article 1, the house stood at 38 Ayes and 51 Noes. Thus the amendment was negatived.


AUTHOR’S NOTE

After more than 73 years of independence, the debate over the name of the nation still stands strong. On the international front, many countries got rid of their past and changed their names to represent their traditional identity. These include- Ceylon to Sri Lanka; Burma to Myanmar; Spanish East Indies to the Philippines; New Spain to Mexico; etc. Indeed, India is not the original name of the country and has a foreign past. Further, the name Bharat finds acceptance in our National Anthem, Freedom Slogans, National Pledge, Highest Civil Honour Award, etc. Thus, it is now for the central government to decide the fate of the representation directed towards it.

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