Himanta Biswa Sarma Sparks Debate Over ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’

The Interchangeability Debate: A Historical Perspective

Attention India
4 Min Read
Himanta Biswa Sarma
  • Sarma Argues Names Are Interchangeable, Cites Prime Ministers
  • Renaming the Reserve Bank of India to ‘Bharat’ Proposed
  • Tharoor’s Jinnah Comparison Draws Strong Rebuttal from Sarma

6th September 2023,Mumbai: In a recent statement, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma made headlines by asserting that the names “India” and “Bharat” are interchangeable, highlighting examples of prime ministers who have taken their oath using both terms. This statement sparked a debate about the significance of these names in the Indian context, with Himanta Biswa Sarma even advocating for the replacement of “India” with “Bharat” in the Reserve Bank of India. In this article, we delve into the historical context and implications of these two names for the nation.

The Interchangeable Identities

Himanta Biswa Sarma, the first to change his Twitter bio to “Bharat” following the opposition alliance’s choice of “INDIA” as their name, firmly believes that there is no substantial difference between “India” and “Bharat.” He argues that this is not a matter of debate, as the Supreme Court of India had already ruled on the interchangeability of the names in 2016. Sarma supports his claim by referencing past prime ministers who have used both terms during their oath-taking ceremonies.

Historical Oaths

Sarma points out that when key figures in Indian politics, such as Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, assumed the role of Prime Minister, they took their oaths as “Bharat ka Pradhan Mantri” rather than “Prime Minister of India.” This historical precedent, according to Sarma, reinforces the idea that the names “India” and “Bharat” can be used interchangeably without any substantive difference. He goes on to say that the debate surrounding these names is essentially a non-issue.

The Call for Change

While Himanta Biswa Sarma believes that the names “India” and “Bharat” are synonymous, he takes a step further by suggesting that the Reserve Bank of India should be renamed as the “Reserve Bank of Bharat.” This proposal reflects the broader theme of renaissance and change that is taking place in Assam and the country as a whole. Sarma sees this as an opportunity to shed old legacies and embrace a new Identity.

The Tharoor Controversy

In response to Himanta Biswa Sarma’s statements, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor entered the fray by suggesting that the BJP government’s support for Jinnah’s view is evident through its actions, such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the choice of the name “India.” Tharoor alluded to Jinnah’s objection to the name “India,” arguing that it implied a continuation of the British Raj and the secession of Pakistan. Sarma, however, dismisses Tharoor’s assertions, labeling them as “half-truths.”

A Matter of Heritage

Himanta Biswa Sarma emphasizes that the focus should not be on what Jinnah said or objected to, but rather on the names that have been deeply rooted in India’s cultural and historical heritage. He argues that the names used by the nation’s sages and saints have always been “Bharat” rather than “India.” In his view, this heritage and cultural identity are paramount.

 The debate surrounding the names “India” and “Bharat” highlights the complexities of identity and nomenclature in a diverse and culturally rich country like India. While some advocate for their interchangeability, others emphasize the importance of preserving historical and cultural continuity. Regardless of the outcome of this debate, it is evident that names hold significant symbolism and meaning, reflecting the evolving narrative of a nation with a rich and diverse history.

-by Kashvi Gala

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