Power Games of Place Names

Meg Hansen Budapest Fellow elemzése

At the September Group of 20 Summit in New Delhi, the government of Prime
Minister Narendra Modi ignited a political row by referring to the country as Bharat in
various official communiqué. Amidst speculation that a formal name change of the
country was imminent, Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar made a striking
declaration, “India, under Modi, is proud to be Bharat.” The contrived dichotomy
between the hitherto synonyms of Bharat and India weaves biopolitical contestations
of indigeneity versus alterity into the national imaginary. Presented as toponymic
decolonization, the effort to erase the name "India" entails a power play by Hindu
nationalists to re-territorialize the national space seventy-six years after the country
gained independence from British colonial rule. Will this project of self-conscious
nation rebuilding establish a new Hindu post-liberal order? Or will it devolve into
illiberalism and seal India's geopolitical fate as a powder keg of Asia?

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