The invitation sent to the delegates of the largest global economies who will participate this weekend in the G20 summit in India has sparked controversy because of a small detail. The letter is signed by Droupadi Murmu, “president of Bharat”.
LOOK: Rumors about a possible name change for India
Although the 1950 Constitution contemplates that both India and Bharat, of Sanskrit origin, are official names of the country and both options are even used in passports, using only the second name in official invitations represents a real novelty on the part of the Administration of the nationalist leader Narendra Modi.
This is mainly because there is a current in the country that seeks to keep only Bharat as its official name and thus get rid of another symbol of its colonial era.
The British monarchy ruled over this territory for 200 years, until 1947. The name of India derives from Sindhu, one of the main rivers that runs through this territory and which was mispronounced by the colonizers.
For these types of reasons, politicians like parliamentarian Harnath Singh Yadav, from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, affirm that “the word ‘India’ is an abuse that the British gave us, while the word ‘Bharat’ is a symbol of our culture. ”.
This small gesture of signing the letter in the name of Bharat is part of a series of measures that Modi has adopted since he came to power seeking to get rid of the “vestiges of British domination.” It also coincides with the recent statements of his party’s ideological mentor, Mohan Bhagwat, in which he proposes keeping only the name of Bharat.
And it has also generated rumors about a possible proposal that will be presented in Parliament to make a single name official, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Among the anti-colonial measures taken by Modi, the changes of names to streets and buildings that maintained references to the time of the Mughal Empire and the British colony stand out. In 2018, for example, three islands named after British rulers were renamed Andaman and Nicobar Islands, remember CNN in an article.
However, not everyone agrees with these types of measures. The current opposition coalition, made up of 26 parties and baptized under the acronym INDIA, accuses Modi of promoting the name change to reduce their strength in the next elections.
Prominent opposition legislator Shashi Tharoor, on the other hand, highlighted through social media that a name change would be detrimental to the achievements made by the most populous country in the world. “Although there is no constitutional objection to calling India ‘Bharat’, which is one of the two official names of the country, I hope that the Government will not be so foolish as to completely dispense with ‘India’, which is of incalculable value of brand accumulated over centuries,” he says.
The debate initiated in India as a result of a possible name change brings to mind the cases of other countries that in recent years have chosen to rename themselves.
Countries that have changed their names in recent years
On June 1, 2022, Turkey was renamed Türkiye. This decision, adopted by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, was justified as an attempt to avoid confusion when citing the country in English, where it sounds and is written the same as turkey. Erdogan’s opponents claim that this is just a new attempt by the president to divert attention from the crises that his government has faced in recent times. The truth is that after the official request of his administration, organizations such as the UN, NATO or the World Trade Organization (WTO) have adopted the new name.
Since January 1, 2020, the country located north of Belgium and west of Germany stopped using the name Holland and demanded that it be cited under the official name: Netherlands. This is because Holland only covers 2 of the 12 provinces that exist in the country. However, the popularization of said name had spread to the point of being better known than by its official name.
In April 2018, King Mswati III of Swaziland announced that the country would be renamed Eswatini, which in the local language means “land of the Swazis”, in reference to the Bantu ethnic people who inhabit the territory, South Africa and Mozambique. The monarch, who made the announcement on the 50th anniversary of independence from the British crown, assured that it is a way to bury the colonial past and recover his ancestral roots.
On June 12, 2018, the prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev, respectively, signed the Prespa agreement for the latter country to be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia. Since the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991, this territory adopted the name Macedonia, which generated a diplomatic conflict with its Greek neighbors, which also have a region with the same name. Both governments reached the agreement due to Macedonian interest (they maintain the same name) in becoming part of NATO and the European Union. Greece had vetoed both candidates until the impasse was resolved. After the agreement, the Macedonians joined the military alliance in 2020 and are candidates to enter the European bloc.
Democratic Republic of Congo
This nation located in the heart of Africa has undergone a large number of name changes throughout its history. In 1885, the Belgians colonized the territory and called it the Congo Free State. Then, in 1908 it was renamed the Belgian Congo. After a fierce armed struggle and revolution for independence in 1959, negotiating tables were opened between Africans and Europeans, leading to the new free country being called the Republic of the Congo in July 1960. However, in September of the same year, General Mobutu Sese Seko – supported by Belgium and the US – would take power and the following year change the country’s name to Zaire in an attempt to “Africanize” the names. With the fall of Mobutu in 1997 and the rise of Laurent Desire Kabila, the country would be renamed again the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In 1989, the military junta that had come to power a year earlier with a coup d’état, determined that Burma would be renamed Myanmar, justifying its decision by having a more inclusive name that would not discriminate against those who do not belong to the Bamma ethnic group, of where the national name came from. This argument, however, has little support since both names have the same translation only in different linguistic registers. Countries such as the US and the United Kingdom do not recognize the name Myanmar, although international organizations use it in official events. The deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi has referred to the country as Burma (Burma, in English) at different international events, as a sign of rejection of the military.
During British rule, which lasted from 1815 to 1948, the small island located in the Laccadive Sea was named Ceylon. More than two decades after liberating itself, and having already cut colonial ties with the British, the authorities of this Asian island decided in 1972 to rename it Sri Lanka.
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