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“What’s in a Name? The ‘Bharat’ Placard at G20 Explained”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appearance at two different G20 Summit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appearance at two different G20 Summit

New Delhi – On Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat behind a sign bearing the name “Bharat” as he opened the Group of 20 (G20) leaders’ summit.

The term by which his nation is typically referred to worldwide, “India,” was not written on the poster. It said “Bharat,” the Sanskrit or Hindi name of the nation, which fueled rumors that his government intended to completely do away with the English name.

Moments thereafter, one of India’s biggest English-language newspapers, the Times of India, ran a headline that read, “PM Modi uses placard Bharat for G20 inaugural address.”

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The Hindi news source ABP News questioned, “Is it a sign of new beginnings?”

It’s interesting to note that both “India” and “Bharat” are used in a country with 1.4 billion people and more than 20 official languages. This dual nomenclature appears even on Indian passports, which display the country’s great linguistic diversity and cultural richness by printing “India” in English and “Bharat” in Hindi.

However, the word was at the heart of a debate this week after dinner invitations for the G20 leaders’ conference referred to India as “Bharat,” igniting a political fight and public debate over what the country should be called, its history, and the colonial legacy.

The inclusion of the name on the invitations signaled a significant shift in the nation’s naming practice on the world stage under Modi and the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The badges worn by Indian representatives at the G20 summit read: “Bharat Official.”

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India is hosting the G20 summit for the first time as Modi looks to strengthen New Delhi’s position as a global power after nearly ten years in office. He promoted himself at the time as a leader who was dedicated to erasing the country’s colonial past and emphasized the need to “liberate ourselves from the slavery mindset.”

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Modi has been eager to portray himself as a disruptor of India’s colonial history, taking moves to steer the nation away from what it has dubbed “vestiges of British rule.” Britain controlled India for roughly 200 years before it attained independence in 1947.

As part of these efforts, streets, and structures that represent India’s Muslim heritage and its former Islamic rulers, the Mughals, who left a lasting imprint on the subcontinent, are being renamed to honor the nation’s majority Hindu population.

 Some of his followers contend that the name by which the nation is most widely known is a holdover from the colonial past.

A “brand of incalculable value” or an “abuse”?

The Sanskrit word for the Indus River, Sindhu, was used by early Western civilizations to form the name India, which was eventually adopted by the British Empire.

According to BJP MP Harnath Singh Yadav, “The word ‘India’ is an insult given to us by the British, whereas the word ‘Bharat’ is a sign of our culture.

Bharat should be used on players’ shirts during the Men’s Cricket World Cup, which will be held in India this year, according to former Indian cricket great Virender Sehwag.

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The usage of “Bharat” on the G20 invitations, however, has caused opposition leaders to scratch their heads.

Shashi Tharoor, a former diplomat and prominent lawmaker from the main opposition Congress party, wrote on social media earlier this week: “While there is no constitutional objection to calling India ‘Bharat,’ which is one of the country’s two official names. However, I hope the government will not be so foolish as to completely dispense with ‘India,’ which has incalculable brand value built up over centuries.

In an effort to remove Modi in the following general election, the heads of 26 Indian opposition parties joined forces in July to form INDIA (also known as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance).

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The adoption of Bharat by the administration, according to some opposition leaders, was a reaction to the INDIA alliance’s establishment.

“How can the BJP bring ‘INDIA’ to an end? Raghav Chadha, a congressman for the Aam Aadmi Party and an alliance participant, posted on social media that “the country doesn’t belong to a political party; it belongs to [all] Indians.” “The BJP does not own our national identity, which it is free to change as it pleases.”

However, India’s Minister of External Affairs, S. Jaishankar, stated that India “is Bharat” in an interview with regional news agency ANI.

“The constitution contains it. Everyone is welcome to read it, he said. “When you say Bharat,” it conjures up a “sense, a meaning, and a connotation.”

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