What’s a name worth? India’s PM Modi sits behind a “Bharat” sign at the G20 conference

What’s a name worth? India’s PM Modi sits behind a “Bharat” sign at the G20 conference

On Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat behind a sign bearing the name of his nation 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 speculations that his government planned 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.”

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

In the country of 1.4 billion people, which has more than 20 official languages, both India and Bharat are used. Both the Hindi name for India and the English word Bharat are found on Indian passports, for example.

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

The inclusion of the name on the invitations signalled a significant shift in the nation’s naming practise 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.”

The G20 meeting is a first for India as Modi aims to increase New Delhi’s influence on the world stage after serving as prime minister for almost ten years. During that time, he has positioned himself as a leader committed to eradicating the nation’s colonial past and stressed the need to “liberate ourselves from the slavery mindset.”

Modi has been eager to present 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 buildings that honour India’s Muslim history and its former Islamic leaders, the Mughals, who left a lasting imprint on the subcontinent, are being renamed to honour 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 “incalculable brand” or a “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 abuse 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.

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

In an effort to unseat 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).

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 strike down ‘INDIA’? The country doesn’t belong to a political party; it belongs to [all] Indians,” Aam Aadmi Party lawmaker Raghav Chadha, an alliance member, said on social media. “Our national identity is not the BJP’s personal property that it can modify on whims and fancies.”

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

“It is there in the constitution. I would invite everybody to read it,” he said. “When you say Bharat,” it evokes a “sense, a meaning and a connotation.”

Topics #Bharat #G20 conference #india #PM Modi

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