by Mamta Bisht

I didn’t write for a long time but today something forced me to write this and here I am writing about something that pushed me to rethink the terminology we use while addressing someone in daily life. Let’s start from scratch in order to understand the background of this long post. On May 3, 2020, I woke up to the news that we lost 5 army personnel today in Kashmir in an operational causality.

Oh! Wait. Did I write the last line correctly or did I change the headline because I was not at all in peace with the terms of the headline? So, the headline was original “5 Army personnel along with 2 terrorists got killed in Kashmir.”

The Use of The Word “Martyred” In Religious Scriptures Has Prompted Indian Army To Refrain From Using It

As soon as I read this headline, I was furious to the core and it was not just the news that made me feel so but also the terminology used by the media houses. In normal parlance, being a citizen of this country, we expect them to be sensible about the sacrifice of the soldiers who lost their lives in order to provide us with safety. We expect that while anyone talks or writes about the extreme sacrifice of our soldiers, the respect and honours associated with that sacrifice should be depicted in the terminology used to refer to them.

Hence, the use of the word “killed” for our brave hearts and intermixing of their martyrdom with the death of terrorists is not acceptable.

Was it the first time they have made this mistake? No. Did no one ever correct them? What’s the reason for such a recurring mistake? While my mind was dwelling on these candid thoughts, I encountered a document issued by the Ministry of Defence a few years back in reply to an RTI filed that revealed that the Ministry of Defence did not have the definition of a “martyr” in its official records.

The Ministry of Defence has said that the classification of casualty in the Indian Army is defined as “Battle” or “Physical” casualty and “the term Martyr is not being used in the Indian Army.”

But why is it so? The internet provided me with the reason that the word “martyr” has a religious connotation and our military being the defence force of a secular nation is not supposed to use any religious terminology as its cause is constitutional, not religious!

Indian Army being the defence force of a secular nation refrains from the use of any term that has a religious connotation.

But does this aforesaid reason give media houses the power to use the word ‘killed’? Is their dictionary limited to the two words “killed” and “martyr” for the defence personnel? When they can’t use the later word, they prefer to use the same term for our soldiers as bravely as they use it for those coward goons?

So now when these media houses use the aforesaid RTI reply for justifying the use of the word “killed” instead of a “martyr”, I would like to open their blind eyes through the same notification reply where the Ministry of Defence said that such incidences could be termed as “battle casualty” or “operations casualty” and by this provided them with the correct terminology to form a sentence in order to address such a situation.

Adding to this, I would like to request our Indian army to add the term “Martyr” to the military lexicon.

Our Society Has Always Used The Word ‘Martyr’ For Respecting Our Soldiers’ Noble Sacrifice

Colonel (Retd.) Karan Thapar’s statement supports this notion. He says, “In the public mind, a martyr is worthy of special respect for a special act he has done. I find no reason why the Army cannot introduce new terminology, instead of calling all deaths as a casualty in Battle or Physical. A Martyr status holds great respect for the person who laid down his life defending the country from the enemy on the first line of action”.

Even General S.P. Sinha  (Retd) supports this and states, “A Martyr is a Fauji (Soldier) who laid down his life for the country, and the government needs to define the term in its official record. The Army should also maintain a record of all martyrs so that each family gets its due in time”.

Quoting these two dignitaries, I would like to state that the meaning of a certain term is not dependent on how it is defined in the ancient books or scriptures but what the society connotes it for in today’s era. Today, we can redefine old terms into new slangs according to our needs. Then why can’t the word “martyr” be redefined in order to address the honour of our soldiers’ sacrifice?

Trust me on this, I think 90% of the population didn’t know that the word has a religious connotation while using it as they have always uttered it in order to respect our soldiers. Lastly, to all media houses out there, I say – Don’t ever repeat this audacity of disrespecting our soldiers through your nonsense headlines.