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India vs Bharat: Spare the children

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is supposed to do the research and come up with the appropriate lessons but on the question of whether India is India or Bharat, it seems to be taking the cue from the Modi government’s obviously politically-driven move during the G-20 summit to pointedly use Bharat in official communications. While the government itself has subsequently indicated that the constitutional formulation ‘India, that is Bharat’ stands, the NCERT has proposed to drop ‘India’ and use ‘Bharat’ in school textbooks. The chairman of NCERT’s 2022 social science committee, Prof C I Isaac, has said that the recommendation will hopefully be implemented from the next academic year.The panel has also recommended the introduction of Indian Knowledge System (IKS) in the curriculum for all subjects, and replacement of ‘ancient history’ with ‘classical history’. Isaac, a historian with known Hindutva leanings, has said that the committee was not influenced by the government, but it is well-known that such proposals do not emerge from a vacuum.

The government has been on a ‘Bharat’ trip recently, positing that to be the original name for the country and ‘India’ to be of colonial origin. During the recent G-20 Summit in NewDelhi, the invitation for the dinner hosted by the President mentioned ‘President of Bharat’ instead of the usual ‘President of India’. The government has since then used it on other occasions, too, and tried to give the impression that that is the authorised name of the country that it prefers. The idea is to derive political advantage from presenting itself as the representative and champion of the ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ India. There is an immediate electoral intent also because the alliance of Opposition parties which want to present a unified fightagainst the BJP has named itself I.N.D.I.A. Prime Minister Modi and the BJP have criticised and ridiculed the I.N.D.I.A. name.

The NCERT panel’s suggestion is an extension of this. It seeks to take the idea to children’s minds and make it appear to them that that is the real name and description of the country. The Constitution describes the country as ‘India, that is Bharat’, and it is wrong to drop one and promote another. The name India is not a colonial legacy but denotes the country’s identity that has evolved through a long period of history. If the names are politicised, Bharat would not be acceptable to many in the country who might consider it as a name derived from a ruling clan in the North. States, including Kerala and Karnataka, have said that they would oppose the proposal. The government should not impose its narrow vision of the country on the young children.

(Published 27 October 2023, 19:22 IST)

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