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  Opinion   Columnists  09 Sep 2023  Shobhaa De | India vs Bharat: Mahayudh is on, mere pyare Bharatwasis

Shobhaa De | India vs Bharat: Mahayudh is on, mere pyare Bharatwasis

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to
Published : Sep 9, 2023, 12:23 am IST
Updated : Sep 9, 2023, 12:23 am IST

This move is seen as yet another strategy to mobilise and polarise our people, by insinuating we were & shall always remain a Hindu Rashtra

The “Bharatisation” of India is afoot. (AA File Photo)
 The “Bharatisation” of India is afoot. (AA File Photo)

Pranaam! Let’s talk about the biggest haathi in the room: Polls 2024. The brouhaha over the supposed “name change” of our great nation has nothing to do with history, geography, mythology; it’s rooted in psychology. Mass psychology. It adds up to just one thing: who wins next year. Those who choose “Bharat”, or those’ve already staked a claim to ‘’INDIA’’.  All the noise over the identity and ownership of the country is nothing more than a political stunt to polarise people and force citizens to choose: If you pick Bharat, you are a proud, culturally-rooted person, steeped in history and tradition. If you prefer “India”, you belong to the irrelevant, elitist minority still stuck in a colonial time-warp, a slave of former masters.

I prefer “Prem Nagari”. Love over hate.

It really isn’t about what the Constitution says or doesn’t. If it was only about constitutional correctness, why did the learned netas wait decades to introduce the two-name theory? Did they suddenly wake up and discover what was stated unambiguously on September 18, 1949, when B.R. Ambedkar moved to amend Article 1, which states: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. The original wording stayed. With all its implications and connotations. So, why this meaningless debate over President Droupadi Murmu’s invitation to a G-20 dinner? Table settings be damned… chamchas, chamchis and knives came out in a flash, as heated debates led to Mahabharat-level yudhs across India/Bharat. Memes galore flew across the world, as loyalists went to absurd extremes to justify the change. Declared a BJP MP sanctimoniously: “Republic of Bharat: happy and proud our civilisation is marching ahead boldly towards Amrit Kaal.’’ Sure, buddy. Hope the people of Manipur feel the same way and are rejoicing, as they wait for representatives of “Bharat” to come to their rescue.

Per se, there’s nothing objectionable or illegal about using “Bharat”. That’s understood. You can take Índia out of Indians, but you can’t take Indians out of India. You can rename India Gate to Bharat Gate, or Gateway of India to Gateway of Bharat, and nothing will alter the history of these two monuments. It’s also a little jejune to talk about Calcutta/Kolkata, Bombay/Mumbai, Madras/Chennai in the same breath. Cities across the world reclaim their historical names. The Bharat /India narrative is significantly different. Historians themselves are struggling to find convincing/clinching/irrefutable evidence that supports the current shift. Constitutional experts rightly interpreted the various articles and said what they have to on the subject. That leaves us. Citizens. Bewildered and powerless. We are neither experts on this complex matter, nor do we have the authority to assert what we feel. Agreed, the chattering classes and their “anglicized” views count for nothing in the present environment. But that doesn’t deny them the right to have opinions.

The biggest concern for citizens is about the obvious manipulation of their sentiments. The timing of this controversy is suspect. The motivation, even more so. Patriotism is being reduced to a pantomime. If you have reservations about Bharat, you are less of an Indian! What a contradiction of terms!

I asked a few friends what they will say when asked by foreigners where they’re from. In the past, we could respond on autopilot: “We’re from India”. Today, that’s deemed politically incorrect. The right response should be: “We’re from Bharat’’. If the foreigner looks stumped and asks: “Where’s that? Which country is Baah—rat?”, will we be deeply offended?  Yes, we will. Even Shashi Tharoor may struggle to come up with an apt repartee, though he didn’t waste a minute jumping into the Bharat/India dialogue on Twitter (X). Team India versus Team Bharat is going to be a bit of a stretch, going forward. But as we all know, it’s about more than just “name-calling”.

This move is seen as yet another strategy to mobilise and polarise our people, by insinuating we were and shall always remain a Hindu Rashtra. We were never India. “India” is a borrowed nomenclature, given to us by “outsiders” who couldn’t pronounce “H” in Hindus, and dropped it in favour of “Indus’’. Indus eventually became India. All sorts of hoary sources are being quoted to support this argument. Assuming it is dead accurate, where does this intriguing “going back in time” journey end? Here we are, already on the moon’s south pole, and steadily heading towards the sun… Why not look ahead, not backwards?

Forget obvious jibes like Isro calling itself “Bisro”, or Indigo becoming “Bhaago”. Will Miss India be crowned Miss Bharat in future? Will Times of India and India Today switch to Bharat? Banks like SBI and BoI… trusted brands for decades, will have to do a brand rethink as well. But remember, such lighthearted jibes always camouflage deeper issues and generate a sense of anxiety, insecurity and uncertainty about the future of the nation we all love and are proud of. Names can change. But what about mindsets? Playing games with citizens to garner a majority next year isn’t just callous, it comes with in-built hazards too. “Mera Bharat Mahaan” was working fine across the board. As was “Yeh Mera India’’. Both identities co-existed without a political agenda attached. “Made in India” was another powerful reminder of our potential to compete globally and win. Tricolour or Tiranga -- the pride was in the flag, not its descriptor.

The fear is this: It’s Bharat today. A concept that’s been introduced in a subliminal, surreptitious way. Without any flourish. Citizens were caught unawares, but unable to express their true reactions without fearing repercussions. A young person asked in all seriousness: “Will I be arrested if I use the word India?” I also asked myself, will I (along with millions of fellow citizens) be ostracised, penalized, marginalised, disenfranchised if I don’t switch? Will I be judged as less of a patriotic Indian for daring to ask questions? VHP spokesman Vinod Bansal’s post is unambiguous: “Let’s forget the word INDIA.” Really, Bhaisaab? Why? I don’t want to forget India. I feel wonderful introducing myself as an Indian.

What’s next? Constitutional amendments? Or easier still… why not construct the world’s largest bulldozer, designed to flatten any and every obstacle? To quote Emperor Napoleon: “The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people.’’ Indians are good people. It’s time to speak up, good people. Before it’s too late.

The “Bharatisation” of India is afoot. Those who don’t like this version of their beloved nation are free to leave -- visa on arrival at the destination of their choice. Jai Hind! Jai Bharat!

Tags: bharat, droupadi murmu, shobhaa de