Martyr's Day: 'It is the cause, and not the death, that makes the martyr'
A day ahead of our national observance of the Martyr's Day on January 30, I am reminded of two quotes. First is the famous quote of Napoleon: 'It is the cause, and not the death, that makes the martyr,' and secondly of Soren Kierkegaard: 'The tyrant dies and his rule is over; the martyr dies and his rule begins.' We need to mull over these quotes and change our hearts rather than indulge in ritualistic observance of Martyr's Day and accompanying tokenism.
January 30, the day Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, is observed as Martyr’s Day with the president, the vice president, the prime minister, the defence minister, and the three Service Chiefs visit Raj Ghat to lay wreaths and remember martyrs. The participants at Raj Ghat hold all-religion prayers and sing bhajans.
As the history has it, Gandhiji was assassinated by Nathuram Godse who held Gandhiji responsible for the partition of India
and consequently Godse was hanged on November 15, 1949. It needs to be mentioned that originally the martyr's day was a part of Republic Day but later was shifted to January 30 to remember Gandhiji's sacrifice and to salute the martyrdom of soldiers, who lost their lives defending the sovereignty of India. It has now been formalized into a national observance.
On this day, besides the tribute to Gandhiji at Raj Ghat, the armed forces personnel blow bugles sounding the Last Post and reversal of arms as a mark of respect to the martyrs. A two-minute silence is observed throughout the country at 11am by blowing sirens.
But, a martyr is the one who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause. Presently, a martyr is considered to be a person with extra-ordinary courage and commitment who lays down his or her life for a national cause or defence and declared so by the state and law makers.
I leave you with a thoughtful quote by Samuel Johnson: "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test."
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