In diverse India, name change demands consensus.
The recent official invitation from Rashtrapati Bhavan for the G-20 summit in New Delhi raised eyebrows due to an unexpected nomenclature change. It referred to the President of India as the ‘President of Bharat,’ triggering a controversy. This incident is emblematic of the current political climate characterized by deep-seated distrust, unexplained vindictiveness, and a surge in revanchism among those in power. It has left the nation in a state of apprehension about its future.
Curiously, there has been no official explanation for this sudden alteration in a formal communication from the head of state. This abrupt shift in terminology took everyone by surprise. Some supporters of the government suggested that the country’s name could be interchangeably used as ‘Bharat,’ as stated in Article 1 of the Constitution. They even proposed that a parliamentary resolution during the upcoming special session could formalize this change. Surprisingly, some senior advocates of the Supreme Court also endorsed this viewpoint.
- However, it’s crucial to clarify that Parliament possesses the authority to alter the country’s name by amending the Constitution under Article 368. But, the public remains perplexed amid the general uproar that has provided little enlightenment on the matter.
GS-02 (Government policies and Interventions)
Article 368, Article 52, Article 1, Article 393, Article 394A
What are the constitutional implications and societal impacts of changing the official name of a country? 15 marks
Dimensions of the Article:
- Constitutional Examination
- Potential for Confusion
- A Question of Colonial Distance
- First, it is important to understand the matter of changing the country’s name from a purely constitutional standpoint. The official invitation from Rashtrapati Bhavan referred to the “President of Bharat.” Currently, constitutionally speaking, there is no position titled “President of Bharat” in the country.
- Article 52 of the Constitution explicitly states that there shall be a “President of India.” This term, “President of India,” represents the official nomenclature for the head of state, which can only be altered through a suitable amendment to Article 52.
- Therefore, it is evident that the use of “President of Bharat” does not align with the Constitution’s Article 52.
- Article 1 of the Constitution reads, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” These words do not imply that ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ are interchangeable, allowing ‘Bharat’ to serve as the official country name. In fact, within the original Constitution, the term ‘Bharat’ is not employed in any articles except in the Hindi version published under the authority of the President as per Article 394A.
- Had the Constitution framers intended to use ‘Bharat’ interchangeably, they would have included it in certain sections of the Constitution, which serves as the authoritative Constitution of India as officially described in Article 393.
- In this context, “India, that is Bharat…” used in Article 1. The phrase “that is” is explanatory, intended to clarify or elucidate the preceding term ‘India.’ Therefore, Article 1 essentially means that ‘India,’ also known as ‘Bharat,’ shall constitute a Union of States.
- The Hindi translation of Article 1 reads, “Bharat means India,” underscoring ‘Bharat’ as a translation of ‘India’ in the original Constitution. Consequently, ‘India’ remains the authentic name of the country until legally altered.
Potential for Confusion:
- The interchangeable use of ‘Bharat’ and ‘India’ in official communications can generate significant confusion. The official name of the country is the Republic of India, used in all official correspondence with foreign nations and international organizations.
- Agreements and treaties with foreign countries are conducted under the banner of the Republic of India, not the Republic of Bharat. Adopting ‘Bharat’ interchangeably could perplex foreign governments, leading to inconsistent references in agreements. A country should have a single official name, which can be either ‘India’ or ‘Bharat,’ but not both.
- A review of Constituent Assembly debates reveals that the draft Constitution initially stated, “India shall be a union of states.” The inclusion of ‘Bharat’ occurred later during the debates due to strong pressure from several members who favored ‘Bharat’ over ‘India.’ Various formulations were proposed by members like H.V. Kamath, K.T. Shah, Seth Govind Das, and Shibban Lal Saxena. However, B.R. Ambedkar added the phrase “that is Bharat” as a compromise. Importantly, he never suggested that ‘Bharat’ could be used interchangeably in the original Constitution.
A Question of Colonial Distance:
- The decision to change a country’s name should not be driven by political agendas but should be the result of consensus in a diverse nation like India. The name should resonate emotionally with people across the country to prevent feelings of alienation among any group.
- Advocating for liberation from India’s colonial past should be accompanied by a broader plan to eliminate all colonial symbols, including Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House, and the Assembly building, alongside restructuring the administrative framework and other aspects. Even the entire Indian railway system carries echoes of the colonial era.
Way Forward and Conclusion:
- The use of ‘Bharat’ as an alternative name for ‘India’ in official communications raises constitutional concerns and potential for international confusion. A name change of this magnitude should be a matter of national consensus, approached with caution to avoid alienation and maintain consistency on the international stage.
- A change of this nature should not be driven solely by political motives but should be evaluated comprehensively, considering its historical, cultural, and societal implications. In the spirit of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ any such decision should reflect the unity and inclusiveness of a diverse nation like India.