Supporters say the name will help move past a colonial mentality.
“The meaning is the same, be it Bharat, Hindustan or India,” said Amit Gihar, a fashion photographer. “Now we get to use it in our own language. We feel pride in saying it” said Gihar, 23, speaking in Hindi.
Many were also left wondering what a person from the country should be referred to in English, as in Hindi citizens are often called “Bharati” or “Bharatiyan.”
Some were also bewildered about the government’s priorities.
“The government shouldn’t remove it. India is a very old name,” said Vijender Singh, 28, who’s been driving rickshaws around the capital for three years. He said that the president’s focus should be on work and facilities for poor people.
Critics also say it’s another attempt by the government to impose Hindi as the national language, and for the BJP to advance its own agenda. The Indian Constitution lists 22 existing languages, but none of them have been given the status of the national language.
According to a decade-old census, Hindi was not the majority language, even though it was spoken by 44% of the people.
Two months ago, the opposition parties came together to form an alliance called “INDIA,” which they said stands for Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. They hope to oust the BJP from government in next year’s election.
“I hope the government will not be so foolish as to completely dispense with India, which has incalculable brand value built up over centuries,” Shashi Tharoor of the opposition Congress party posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Later he sarcastically suggested the opposition alliance could also change the name to BHARAT, standing for “Betterment, Harmony And Responsible Advancement for Tomorrow.”
“Then perhaps the ruling party might stop this fatuous game of changing names,” he said.
India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar dismissed criticisms in an interview with the ANI news agency, saying, “India, that is Bharat, it is there in the constitution. Please, I would invite everybody to read it.”