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India

Soldier Killed In Action Not A ‘Martyr’, Reiterates Indian Army

The term 'martyr' represents those who are killed after voluntarily undergoing suffering or persecution for refusing to renounce religion or for political causes.

The letter suggested alternative terms that can instead be used for soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice for the nation. (Photo: File)

INDIAN Army does not want its soldiers who lay down their lives in the line of duty to be called a “martyr”, as the term is not the correct terminology. A circular released by the Additional Directorate General of Public Information(ADGPI) under the Indian Army headquarters stated that any soldier who dies in the line of action for the country may not be referred to as “martyr” or shaheed, as it may not be appropriate. The letter suggested alternative terms that can instead be used for soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice for the nation.

In December 2015, the then minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju in a written reply to the Lok Sabha had revealed that the Army headquarters had informed that any casualties of any personnel from India Armed Forces, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles (AR) shall not be referred to as a “martyr”. 

When asked about the significance of “martyrs” which is often used by a section of the media for soldiers killed in action, Major Navdeep Singh (retd), who is also an advocate in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, explained that the term has religious connotations.

“The term ‘martyr’ represents those who are killed after voluntarily undergoing suffering or persecution for refusing to renounce religion or for political causes. Though it was being used out of ignorance and not out of any disrespect, it’s totally an unmilitary expression alien to military parlance and I’m glad the Army has reiterated this,” said the former Army officer.

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Alternative Terms

Every time a soldier is killed in the line of duty, questions are raised as to why such soldiers are not called shaheed or “martyrs” by a section of the media as well as the common people.

Former Army officer Lieutenant General Satish Dua (retd) pointed out that martyr is not a term which is used for soldiers fighting for the country.

“The term battle casualty is used in official military communication. The usage of supreme sacrifice or in vernacular, the neutral term veergati or veergatiprapt is also used,” said Lt Gen Satish Dua.

“The word martyr is not used to define the death of soldiers in action by any nation around the world, except by armies of Islamic nations due to the religious connotation of martyrdom. Terrorist organisations do consider dead terrorists as ‘martyrs’ as per their (flawed) understanding of a holy war. “It is heartening to note that the authorities have taken note of the incorrect usage of the word for soldiers killed in action,” added the highly decorated soldier.

The circular released by the Indian Army also suggested alternative salutations like, “fallen heroes/soldier”, “killed in action”, “laid down their lives”, “supreme sacrifice for the nation”, “Indian Army braves” and more.

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