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The Debate Over India’s Name as ‘Bharat’

(SYLLABUS RELEVANCE: GS 2: Polity and Governance) 

Why is it in the news?

Recently, an official invitation from President Droupadi Murmu referring to India as “Bharat” has sparked discussions about the possibility of officially renaming India during a Special Session of Parliament.

Constituent Assembly Discussions

The Constituent Assembly of India engaged in passionate debates over the name of the newly independent nation, resulting in the formulation of Article 1 of the Constitution of India. The discussion revolved around whether to use “Bharat” or “India” and the significance of this choice.

                          Debates Timeline
Nov 17,1949The first debate on Article 1 was scheduled to begin, but Govind Ballabh Pant suggested postponing discussions on the name to a later date.

 

Sep 17,1949Dr. B.R. Ambedkar presented the final version of Article 1, which included both “Bharat” and “India.”

 

Arguments for “Bharat”I) Seth Govind Das from Jabalpur advocated placing “Bharat” before “India.”

II) Members expressed concerns that “India” reminded them of the colonial past.

III) The demand was made to clarify that “India” was a substitute for “Bharat” in the English language.

 

Historical ReferencesI) Hari Vishnu Kamath referenced the Irish Constitution, which changed its name upon achieving freedom.

II) Hargovind Pant emphasized that people in Northern India strongly preferred “Bharatvarsha.”

 

Rejecting “India”I) Hargovind Pant argued that “India” was a name imposed by foreign rulers and symbolized their oppression.

II) Reference to ancient texts such as the Vishnu Purana and Brahma Purana was made to support the use of “Bharat.”

III) Das countered arguments that “India” was more ancient than “Bharat.”

 

Suggested NamesI) Kamath proposed various names derived from scriptures, including “Bharat,” “Bharatvarsha,” or “Bharatbhumi.”

II) He mentioned the differing opinions among historians and philologists about the origin of the name “Bharat.”

 

Dr. Ambedkar StanceI) Dr. Ambedkar emphasized that the civilizational debate was unnecessary since there was no opposition to the name “Bharat” among members.

II) He clarified that the primary discussion was about the order of words, i.e., whether “Bharat” should come before or after “India.”

 

 

The Constituent Assembly’s deliberations on India’s name resulted in the inclusion of both “Bharat” and “India” in Article 1 of the Constitution. The debates reflected historical, cultural, and post-colonial sentiments, ultimately leading to a compromise that acknowledged both names in the official document.

Legal Experts Opinion

Legal experts have varying opinions on whether a constitutional amendment is necessary for this change.

  1. According to Abhishek Singhvi, a senior Supreme Court advocate believes that “Bharat” and “India” can be used interchangeably. He asserts that an amendment would be required only if the government insists on using one term exclusively or wants to remove a specific term.
  2. Aman Lekhi, a former Additional Solicitor-General and senior Supreme Court advocate, contends that the official name is the “Republic of India,” and a name change would necessitate a constitutional amendment under Article 368. He questions the necessity of such a change, emphasizing the importance of avoiding controversy regarding the country’s name.
  3. Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar believes that the terminology debate is a matter of semantics and should not be seen as sinister. He emphasizes the need for clarity of intent if any change is proposed.

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