Explained: Why Indian Armed Forces don’t use the terms 'martyr' and 'shaheed' for the fallen braves?

The Ministry of Defence informed the Rajya Sabha on March 28 that the Indian Armed Forces do not use the term 'martyr' for those who sacrifice their lives for the nation. Here's why.
Created On: Mar 30, 2022 18:15 IST
Modified On: Mar 30, 2022 18:34 IST
Explained: Why Indian Armed Forces don’t use the terms 'martyr' and 'shaheed' for the fallen braves?
Explained: Why Indian Armed Forces don’t use the terms 'martyr' and 'shaheed' for the fallen braves?

Military has no Martyrs: The Ministry of Defence informed the Rajya Sabha on March 28 that the Indian Armed Forces do not use the term 'martyr' for those who sacrifice their lives for the nation.

"The term ‘martyr’ is not used in the Indian Armed Forces," informed Ajay Bhatt, MoS for Defence while answering a question put up by TMC's Dr Santanu Sen in Rajya Sabha. Dr Sen asked whether the government has stopped using the term 'martyr' for those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. 

Government's stand on the use of the word 'martyr'

The Government of India has time and again maintained that the term 'martyr' doesn't hold any official recognition. 

In 2013 and 2014, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) clarified in RTI replies that the terms 'martyr' and 'shaheed' are not recognized by the Government of India.

In December 2015, then MoS for Home Affairs Kirren Rijiju said in Lok Sabha that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has informed that the word 'martyr' is not used for the casualties in the Indian Armed Forces, adding that such terms are not used for Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and Assam Rifles personnel also. The Minister stated this in a written reply to a question by Neelam Sonker in Lok Sabha. 

MoS for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai in December 2021 again informed the Upper House of the Parliament that there was no official nomenclature such as 'martyr'. 

Objection to the word 'Martyr'

The words 'martyr' and 'shaheed' have been used in the past to bring forth the sacrifices made by the people for upholding their religious beliefs in Christianity and Islam respectively. 

The term 'martyr' comes from the Greek word 'martur' which defines it as 'a person who voluntarily suffers death as a penalty for refusing to renounce religion'. The word 'shaheed' is a Hindustani version of 'martyr'. 

Since the Indian Armed Forces have a diverse religious and cultural background, the usage of the terms 'martyr' or 'shaheed' doesn't fit in here and is incorrect from the Indian point of view. 

In its February 2022 circular, the Indian Army has asked all its commands to desist from using the term 'martyr' for those who sacrifice their lives in the line of duty. Instead, phrases such as laid down their lives, killed in action, supreme sacrifice for the nation, fallen heroes, Indian Army braves and fallen soldiers, battle casualty, Bravehearts, braves whom we lost, and veergati/veergati prapt/veer should be used when referring to India's fallen braves. 

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