India vs Bharat And Attempts To Hijack Legacy Of Freedom Movement

I am not here to argue whether the name ‘India’ is better or ‘Bharat’ is, because both are part of my identity, and I would love to preserve both because both define me. The argument to choose one is problematic for the simple reason that if one chooses ‘India’ then one is branded an ‘anti-national’ with a ‘colonial mind-set’, who approves of a ‘symbol of slavery’, and if one appreciates ‘Bharat’, then one automatically becomes patriotic, nationalist and a true Hindu. This binary is cleverly designed to divide people in the name of “‘India’ that is ‘Bharat…'”.

I find it not only reprehensible but also detestable. I know that some people are overnight pundits on the name of the country after reading a few paragraphs from Wikipedia. Without any deeper understanding of the subject, they are passing judgement and calling names. This is the sad state of affairs in our civil discourse.

What is even more disheartening is that the entire debate is sponsored by the regime, and cabinet ministers who occupy constitutional and responsible positions are engaging in toxic debates. These are the leaders who, before this debate erupted, called their rivals ‘anti-India’ or ‘India-haters’.

Rahul Gandhi’s statement in London while interacting with journalists was quoted out of context and he was branded an ‘India-hater’, a person who loves to insult India whenever he is abroad. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised Rahul Gandhi in March 2023 for “insulting India”. That means “India” was a pious word then, denoted and represented the Holy Spirit of our civilisation, which is eternal and sanatan.

These were the same ministers and leaders who labelled anyone and everyone who dared to disagree with the policies of the government and the “Hindutva” thought process as “anti-India”, and they have been doing this since Modi became Prime Minister. The debate of the Constituent Assembly was available even then; the arguments of HV Kamath, Seth Govind Das and others in favour of naming the country ‘Bharat’ were available too but nobody ever bothered to cite those to call the word ‘India’ colonial. That means that the regime and its followers never had problems with the word ‘India’. This is a new concoction, and has a purpose.

Cabinet ministers calling the word ‘India’ foreign, have no understanding of our civilisation. Both India and Bharat have their origin in our civilisational history. If traces of the word ‘India’ can be found from the time of Alexander’s invasion of our country, it was in the vocabulary of those who referred to all those living on the banks of the river Sindhu (Indus) or beyond as Indies.

The name Bharat can also be traced back to Shakuntala and Dushyant’s son Bharat. Lord Ram’s younger brother was Bharat. The debate is not about which of the names is an integral part of our living memory, because both are. The debate is how and why an attempt is being made to turn one against the other for political purposes, even if it means distorting history ruthlessly. It is this narrow, opportunistic, and pernicious use of our memory that must be contested.

The name “India that is Bharat” was adopted after a great debate in the Constituent Assembly, which, at the time, was marked by a clear ideological divide. Nevertheless, the matter was resolved with great dignity through the democratic process. One would be foolish to doubt the patriotism and nationalism of the members of the Constituent Assembly, who voted in favour of “India that is Bharat”. Each of them was a stalwart in their own right, having made sacrifices for the country, enduring years and decades in British jails, and braving the oppressive forces of British imperialism. No one dared question their understanding of our civilisation as they were intellectual giants – Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Rajendra Prasad, Chakravarty Rajagopalachari, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were not only freedom fighters but also men of letters. To assume that they were prisoners of a colonial mindset is laughable and ridiculous; it’s an insult to their great sacrifice for the country.

It pains me to say this, but organisations that never participated in the freedom struggle, never fought for the country’s independence, not endured imprisonment, when countless Indians made sacrifices to give their children an Independent India, are attempting to hijack the legacy of the freedom movement. Those who did not accept the Constitution and had no respect for the tricolour are today distributing certificates of patriotism to others. Let’s not forget that these were the people who had said at the time that “the Tricolour had three colours, which was a bad omen and would not be accepted by the people”. It is also worth noting that these were the men who had rejected the Indian Constitution, saying “it had nothing that was Indian in it and was not acceptable to them”. Therefore, I am not surprised by their utterances.

This is an attempt to discredit the legacy of the freedom movement because it haunts them deeply, it gives them sleepless nights as they are reminded that they had no contribution in building the edifice of free India, brick-by-brick.

I can understand that over time, society evolves and change is necessary. However, if change is railroaded without rational thinking, it leads to catastrophe. It destroys the very foundation of the building.

The government has the mandate, and it can bring change if it wants. However, it does not have the mandate to change the universal values of the freedom movement, it does not have the mandate to restructure the Constitution, it does not have the mandate to redesign our civilizational memory and its cultural software. That requires the sanction of history and blessings of the collective wisdom of society.