As New Delhi readies itself to host the Group of 20 (G-20) leaders this week, a significant controversy has emerged over the choice of words used by the Indian government on the summit dinner invitations.
The government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has made a deliberate choice in naming the host nation for the banquet. Instead of "President of India," the invitations now read "President of Bharat."
The term "Bharat" has deep historical roots and has been interchangeably used with "India" in Sanskrit and Hindi. India's constitution even begins with the phrase "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States."
The use of "Bharat" has become politically charged in recent years, as it aligns with the ruling Hindu nationalist “Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP)” preferred nomenclature. Some view it as an attempt to evoke an exclusively Hindu past in a nation that is home to diverse religious communities.
The invitations have sparked diverse reactions, with some applauding the move as a step away from India's colonial past, while others criticize it as an affront to the nation's rich diversity. It also coincides with the BJP's efforts to rename places with colonial or Muslim heritage.
While there's no official confirmation of a name change, the debate rages on. India's official name remains "India," yet the discussion around "Bharat" continues to reflect the complex interplay of history, politics, and identity in the country.