India that is Bharat : The Politics of a National Name

Economic and Political Weekly,


A recent writ petition on renaming India as Bharat, which got dismissed by the Supreme Court, is discussed. There are political motives behind naming or renaming a place, but Hindustan, Bharat, and Hind — are all part of the package that is India.


In June 2020, the Supreme Court of India heard a writ petition that sought to remove the name India” from Article 1 of the Constitution. As it stands, Article 1 reads: India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” The petitioner argued that the national name India” was one given by the colonial Raj, and was thus a symbol of slavery. As legal principle, the petitioner proffered Article 21, the fundamental right to life and personal liberty, to argue that the continued use of such a colonial relic violated the citizens’ right to call their nation by its rightful name, Bharat.” Bharat,” the petition added, is favourably associated with the legacy of the anti-colonial resistance, and was therefore preferable.

Seeking the exercise of the Court’s writ jurisdiction in public interest, the petitioner sought the direction to the union government, through the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, to remove the allegedly offensive national name via an amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution. On 3 June 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition with the advice that it be treated as a representation by the appropriate Ministry. “(W)e can’t do it,” the Court reportedly said (Indian Express 2020).


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