The NDA government on Wednesday told Parliament that there was no difference between Bharat and India but hinted at promoting the use of Bharat in school textbooks as part of efforts to move away from the “colonial mindset”.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is currently in the process of preparing new textbooks for schoolchildren.
In 2021, a sub-committee on social science curriculum recommended replacing India with Bharat in textbooks. However, the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE), which was prepared based on recommendations of 25 sub-committees on various subjects, is silent on promoting the use of Bharat.
CPI leader in the Rajya Sabha Sandosh Kumar P and CPM leader Elamaram Kareem wanted to know what actions were taken on the recommendation of an NCERT panel to use the word Bharat in place of India in textbooks.
In a written reply, minister of state for education Annpurna Devi said there was no difference between the words.
“Article 1 of the Constitution of India states that ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.’ India’s Constitution recognises both ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ as the official names of the country which can be used interchangeably. The NCERT duly acknowledges this spirit as enshrined in our Constitution and does not differentiate between the two,” she said.
“As we collectively move away from the colonial mindset and encourage the usage of the words in Bhartiya Bhasha (Indian languages), the NCERT, an autonomous body under the aegis of the ministry of education involved in the preparation of school curriculum and textbooks, will also do its best in furthering the same,” she added.
Sandosh Kumar told The Telegraph that the government would practically use “Bharat” more. “After going through this reply, I get a feeling that the government is considering India as a word of colonial mindset. So they will use Bharat more,” he said.
Academicians disapproved of the government’s approach of promoting Bharat.
Pankaj Jha, a faculty member of History at Lady Shri Ram College, said the word India has its root in Greek (Indikos) or Latin (Indicus), both of which were used to refer to the land beyond the Indus (or Sindhu) river. So the origin of the word India is Sindhu, a Sanskrit word. The word Bharat has its origin in Sanskrit literature.
“Even though Bharat comes from Sanskrit literature, it is not correct to say the word had a universal acceptance in society. Those who used Sanskrit language were the elites. Sanskrit was beyond the pale of a major chunk of the population. The word Bharat was coined by and confined to the privileged,” Jha said.
“Nor did it mean the same thing to people across times and places. This term is notoriously unstable in its connotations across Sanskrit treatises!”