The invitations to a state dinner to mark India’s hosting of this year’s G20 came not, as you’d expect, from the office of the president of India, but from the “president of Bharat”. This has prompted speculation from observers both at home and abroad about whether this signifies an official government intention to rename the country.

Some have suggested that the ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata arty) is rattled, and is responding to the adoption of the acronym INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) by a group of more than two dozen opposition political parties ahead of the general elections in 2024.

There are numerous debates taking place online – both humorous and serious – about whether this name change ought to go ahead.

There’s a growing push among BJP MPs to adopt the name change, since “India” – the conventional English rendering of the country’s name – to some at least, symbolises “colonial slavery”. There have been previous petitions seeking such a name change, but these were dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2016, and again in 2020.

Just days before the G20 invitation went out, Mohan Bhagwat, head of the nationwide right-wing paramilitary organisation RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) – the ideological parent of the BJP – called explicitly for the use of “Bharat” rather than India, saying: “We don’t have to think about whether anyone outside will understand this or not. If they want to, they will, but that is not our problem … The world need us today, we don’t need the world.”

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