News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay

Rediff.com  » News » Will Renaming India Change Our Lives?

Will Renaming India Change Our Lives?

By RAMESH MENON
October 26, 2023 10:24 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

Debates on changing the name of India to Bharat continue to spark a crisis of identity without answering moot questions that stare us in the face.
Ramesh Menon asks a few of those questions that do not have easy answers.

IMAGE: India Gate is enveloped in a layer of smog as the overall air quality in the national capital recorded in the 'Moderate' category with the Air Quality Index (AQI) at 190, October 25, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo
 

As parliamentary elections inch closer, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party spins up numerous controversies and ideas.

One of them is the renaming of India to Bharat. Ostensibly, it is to get rid of the country's colonial past.

But the fact is that India was India even before the British colonised it.

The Opposition is wondering if Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is trying to take the wind out of their sails as over two dozen political parties have come under one umbrella called the INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance).

A simple slogan like 'Vote for India', can have a tremendous emotional pull for the voter.

On the other hand, the BJP may try to use the all-pervasive emotional appeal of nationalism linked to Bharat, underlining that its cultural roots are deep in there and that we are a proud country.

Saying that it removes the relics of the past and we will be proud when it is renamed as Bharat does not jell as even in the 4th and 5th Century, it was called India.

Check out how many Indians gave up their Indian passport in the last ten years? How many are in the queue to migrate out of India? How many have chosen to give up their Indian citizenship and why?

Let us accept it. We have a foreign hangover.

Ultimately, the renaming may take some time as it is almost impossible to pull it off before the next national election.

Apart from the projected Rs 14,000 crore (Rs 140 billion) plus required to make it happen, it will be a logistical nightmare for India and the rest of the world.

The name India is everywhere, from passports to organisations like the Indian Army, Indian Space Research Organisation, Indian Railways, Reserve Bank of India, Election Commission of India, Indian Institute of Management, Indian Institute of Technology and thousands of others.

These names have resounded worldwide, and wiping it off is going to take a lot of work. India has a brand value today, and frittering it away is foolhardy.

World leaders attending the G20 meeting in India recently might have wondered how Modi changed nameplates and invitation cards with the name Bharat instead of India without even consulting anyone or opening a discussion in what Modi calls in personalised ads the 'Mother of Democracy'.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi at the G20 Summit, September 9, 2023, with the Bharat name plate. Photograph: ANI Photo

In 2016, when a Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Supreme Court asking that India's name be changed to Bharat, the Centre virulently opposed it, telling the court that there had been no change in circumstances to consider changing the country's name by amending the Constitution.

Now, there has been a change of heart. The reasons are apparent and are blowing in the wind.

If India is to be renamed, a Constitutional amendment will have to be passed.

This would call for a two-thirds majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, apart from a ratification by half of the states in the country.

Is this the greatest priority now? Are there burning issues that the government needs to tackle? For an ordinary Indian on the street, this is a non-issue as there are so many other problems he has to tackle to wade through in troubled times.

This is not the first time this demand has erupted. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, in 2004, wanted an amendment in the Constitution to change the phrase 'India that is Bharat' with 'Bharat that is India'.

Shantaram Naik, then a Congress MP from Goa, had moved a bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2012 pleading for India to be renamed Bharat.

We have a penchant for changing names.

We changed the names of Bombay, Madras, Bangalore, Calcutta, Poona, Trivandrum, Allahabad and so on. How did that change the fate of these cities? Did it get better?

How will the renaming of India into Bharat change our lives?

Will Bharat change the colonial past that it is claiming to do?

Will we give up all the relics of the colonial past, like addressing a judge as 'Your Honour' or 'Your Lordship'? Or will we stop saying things like 'Honourable Minister'?

Will it erase the outdated education system that Thomas Babington Macaulay designed in 1865 to create an army of clerks to run the British administration and create one that is realistic to implement?

Will it improve Bharat's development indices of poverty, gender justice, malnutrition, female foeticide, illiteracy, corruption, et al?

Will it change antiquated laws that have come from the British to mirror modern changes and attitudes?

Will the bureaucracy change now that we have become Bharat as it is deeply entrenched in colonial attitudes where they are the elite?

Will the defence forces change their norms too to reflect the changed resolve to junk colonial attitudes?

Will it infuse a new enthusiasm to make democracy flourish, enriching its strengths or further make us passive, be under some spell, and selectively pick up data and information that suits us?

Will the new Bharat douse the flames of hatred being fanned and encouraged all over and make us embrace inclusiveness and tolerance to strengthen the country.

Will it make us more rational and less prejudiced?

Will the new Bharat stop youngsters thronging foreign embassies for visas to go abroad and never return?

Will it bring in a qualitative change in governance that is fair and not vindictive against those opposed to the party in power?

Will it say no to populism that is bleeding budgets of state after state where politicians use tax money to give away gifts to voters and win elections?

Will Bharat make politicians and policymakers think differently and concentrate on good governance that will dynamically change the lives of the people they touch with their schemes and plans?

Will the new Bharat revitalise democratic institutions to once again build theIdea of India or become a doormat for politicians to stand on?

Will the name change make the media realise that it has to once again emerge as the fourth pillar of democracy, ask uncomfortable questions and hold a mirror to society? Or will it just continue to slide into further irrelevancy and mediocrity?

Will Bharat energise the diversity and cultural richness of India why being inclusive and respecting various communities and religions?

If India wants to highlight its cultural heritage by calling itself Bharat, will it also infuse in policies to usher in its erstwhile rich civilisational values which are so different from the ones that present political dispensation wants?

How will the country deal with the kind of confusion it will immediately rustle up in documents related to international treaties, trade agreements and diplomatic relations?

IMAGE: Army personnel and citizens take part in a Tiranga walkathon in Mumbai, August 14, 2023, on the eve of Independence Day. Photograph: ANI Photo

Clearly, Bharat is not one of the issues that is on the top of every Indian as there are just too many question marks that are worrying and haunting.

Our lawmakers need to understand that and not think that playing to the gallery and whipping up emotions is the way forward in a country at the crossroads of great opportunities that need to be harvested.

Ramesh Menon, award-winning journalist, educator, documentary film-maker and corporate trainer, is the author of Modi Demystified: The Making Of A Prime Minister.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
RAMESH MENON
 
CHINESE CHALLENGE - 2022

CHINESE CHALLENGE