Here’s why Akhand Bharat mural in new Parliament building stirs controversy
A mural in the new Parliament building of India, depicting the Indian subcontinent with sites of ancient Indian influence, has ignited a controversy as it is interpreted to represent the concept of 'Akhand Bharat.'
A mural of the Indian subcontinent showing the sites of ancient Indian influence installed in the new Parliament building has kicked off a fresh row between India and its neighbours. The mural, which depicts the concept of ‘Akhand Bharat’ has shown Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, among the places of cultural and religious importance that are present outside the boundaries of modern-day India. This has sparked protests in Nepal.
“The controversial mural of ‘Akhand Bharat’ in the recently inaugurated new Parliament building of India may stoke unnecessary and harmful diplomatic row in the neighbourhood, including Nepal. It has the potential of further aggravating the trust deficit already vitiating the bilateral relations between most of the immediate neighbours of India,” former Nepal Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai said in a statement.
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The controversial mural of 'Akhand Bharat' in the recently inaugurated new Parliament building of India may stoke unnecessary and harmful diplomatic row in the neighborhood including Nepal. It has the potential of further aggravating the trust deficit already vitiating the_ pic.twitter.com/dlorSZ05jn
— Baburam Bhattarai (@brb1954) May 30, 2023
The issue comes on the sidelines of the visit of Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to India on Wednesday. The condemnation from Nepal came across political lines with former Prime Minister and current leader of the opposition KP Sharma Oli also raising the issue.
“If a country like India that sees itself as an ancient and strong country and as a model of democracy puts Nepali territories in its map and hangs the map in Parliament, it cannot be called fair,” he said, reported The Kathmandu Post.
PM Dahal assured Nepali lawmakers that he would take up the issue with Indian authorities. However, Indian foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra stated that the issue had not even come up for discussion when the Nepali PM met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 1.
The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs also strongly protested against the mural.
“We are appalled by the statements made by some BJP politicians including a Union Minister, linking the mural with ‘Akhand Bharat’. The gratuitous assertion of ‘Akhand Bharat’ is a manifestation of a revisionist and expansionist mindset that seeks to subjugate the identity and culture of not only India’s neighboring countries but also its own religious minorities,” said the foreign office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch.
While the map was claimed to be a depiction of Indian influence stretching all the way to present-day Afghanistan, the map was also called a portrayal of “Akhand Bharat” by Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, and Coal and Mines, Pralhad Joshi. “The resolve is clear - Akhand Bharat,” Joshi tweeted in Kannada along with an image of the mural.
— Pralhad Joshi (@JoshiPralhad) May 28, 2023
"It is a symbol of the vitality of our proud great civilisation," he added.
"Our idea was to depict the influence of Indian thought during the ancient ages. It extended from the present day Afghanistan in the northwestern region to south-eastern Asia," said Adwaita Gadanayak, Director General at National Gallery of Modern Art, who was also responsible for selecting the artwork to be installed at the art gallery inside the new Parliament building.
The concept of Akhand Bharat, meaning "Unified India," refers to the idea of a unified Indian subcontinent, encompassing present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other neighboring regions, based on historical, cultural, and political connections.
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