In an obvious reference to Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the time had come to uproot terror and those who patronise terrorists.
Addressing a massive Dussehra gathering at the Aishbagh Ram Leela ground here, Modi said terrorism in all forms was anti-humanity and Hindu Lord Rama represented all that was human.
It was the Prime Minister’s first public speech after the September 29 surgical strikes by the Indian Army at terror launch pads in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
He made no direct reference to the surgical strikes or to Pakistan that killed an unspecified number of terrorists but made it more than clear which country he had in mind.
“Those who spread terrorism need to be annihilated and those who aid terrorism will not be spared either,” Modi said in a speech laced with references to Hindu religion.
Modi said India was a country that respected both Lord Krishna who led the Pandavas in the war of Mahabharata and Mahatma Gandhi who propagated non-violence.
“We are the people who go from yuddha (war) to Buddha (peace). Sometimes war is necessary, but our path is not that of war, but that of Buddha.
“We create balance… I hope the path shown by Buddha will be our final path,” he said.
The Prime Minister invoked Ramayana and asked people to keep a vigil against terror and fight it the way the vulture Jatayu fought Ravana in a desperate bid to try rescue the abducted Sita from the demon.
“We may not be able to become Ram, but we can all try and be Jatayu and give a befitting reply to the nefarious designs of terrorists,” he said, beginning and ending his speech with loud cries of “Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram”.
“If a country of 1.25 crore keeps an eye on every terrorist activity, terrorists will never succeed,” Modi said to loud cheers.
He said decades ago when India discussed terrorism, nobody paid heed.
The BJP veteran recalled how during a visit to the US years ago, American officials argued that terrorism was a law and order problem.
But all this changed after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US and the 2008 Mumbai carnage that left 166 people dead.
“Terrorism knows no religion, no boundaries.”
Modi earlier arrived to a grand welcome at the sprawling ground in the heart of Lucknow, the capital of election-bound Uttar Pradesh.
Accompanied by union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and other state BJP leaders, Modi performed ‘aarti’ of the characters playing Lord Ram and Sita and was later felicitated by the city Mayor Dinesh Sharma, the convenor of the 70-year-old Ram Leela.
The Prime Minister was gifted a silver mace, an arrow and a bow. A turban was tied on his head.
Modi said effigies of Ravana had been burnt for centuries on this day but “we should rededicate ourselves today to demolish the evils within us as well”.
Dussehra, Modi said, also meant to do away with 10 evils within humans and kill the Ravana within that raises its head in the forms of dishonesty, greed, filth, blind faith and ego.
He urged people to fight against female foeticide. “If for bringing dishonour to one Sita, Ravana can be burnt for ages, why not fight against killing girls in wombs.”