India pays homage to Gandhi on Martyrs' Day
India paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi on his 68th death anniversary to mark Martyrs' Day, an event attended by the President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister and three Service Chiefs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on the nation to observe 2 minutes of silence on 11 am "as a mark of respect" to the thousands of martyrs who gave their lives in India's freedom struggle.
Why is Martyrs' Day celebrated?
Martyrs' Day is celebrated by several nations across the world to commemorate and salute the martyrdom of soldiers who lost their lives defending the sovereignty of the nation. Different countries celebrate Martyrs' Day on different dates to commemorate momentous events in the history of the country. Armenia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, UAE, Pakistan, Vietnam, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Turkey, Burma and Tunisia all celebrate Martyrs' Day.
Martyrs' Day and India
India celebrates Martyrs' Day on several occasions. At the national level, Martyrs' Day, also known as Sarvodaya Day, is celebrated on 30 January, to mark the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who was assassinated on 30 January 1948. It is also celebrated on 23 March to commemorate the deaths of Bhagat Singh, Shivram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar who were hanged on 23 March 1931.
Mahatma Gandhi's assassination
On 30 January 1948, while on his way to a prayer meeting, Mahatma Gandhi was shot three times in the chest at point-blank range by Nathuram Godse. Reportedly, Gandhi's last words were "Hey Ram!". Godse, who was a militant Hindu nationalist, held Gandhi guilty of appeasing Pakistan and showing a "bias for Muslims". Godse was hanged on 15 November 1949, after undergoing trial.
Godse felt that it was Gandhi's fast, announced in the 2nd week of January 1948, which forced the Indian cabinet to release an amount of Rs.550 million to Pakistan, in spite of Pakistani aggression in Kashmir.
Regional celebrations of Martyrs' Day
Kashmir celebrates Martyrs' Day on 23rd June to mark the death anniversary of Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee in 1953 (also called "National Integration Day"). Odisha celebrates Martyrs' Day on 17 November to commemorate the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. 19 November, the birthday of Rani Lakshmibai, is celebrated as Martyrs' Day in Jhansi to honour those who died in the revolt of 1857.
How is Martyrs' Day celebrated in India?
On Martyrs' Day, the President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, and Chief of Air Staff gather at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial in Raj Ghat, Delhi, to pay homage to the Father of the Nation. Armed Forces personnel then blow bugles sounding the Last Post, while the inter-services contingent reverse arms as a sign of respect.