Lucknow: In his first public address after India's surgical strikes across the Line of Control, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not directly reference the military action, but stated, "We are at a point now where those who support terror or allow it cannot go unpunished."
- PM Modi addressed Dussehra Mahotsav in Lucknow
- Terrorism is the biggest enemy of humanity, he said
- Opponents denounced the event as a blatant political exercise
"Terrorism is the biggest enemy of humanity ... it knows no boundaries, it is bent only on destruction," the PM said at Dussehra celebrations in Lucknow, where he watched the Ramlila which enacts Ravana's defeat by Ram in the epic Ramayana to message that good triumphs over evil.
India's raids on terrorist staging areas in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir on September 28 are seen as direct military response for the attack last month on an army base in Uri in Kashmir, in which 19 soldiers were killed by terrorists from across the border.
Opponents have denounced PM Modi's relocation to Lucknow for today's festival as a blatantly political exercise ahead of the approaching election in Uttar Pradesh. But the PM's party denies that he has relinquished protocol in search of advantage with voters.
Before the PM's speech, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is also the parliamentarian from Lucknow, told the audience, "The PM has proved to the world that India is not weak," referring to the cross-border strikes.
Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has charged the government with disingenuously appropriating the army's action in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir for self-aggrandizement. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is among those who have called for the government to share proof of the cross-border action against terrorists, which has been flatly denied by Pakistan as "fabricated."
For Mr Modi's visit, the traditional Ramlila in Lucknow's Aishbagh was revamped: instead of being open to everybody, 2,000 passes were sent to invitees who were screened by the Special Protection Group or SPG which guards the PM. The performance was accompanied by an Indian martial arts display. And the effigy of Ravana had a message against terrorism inscribed on it, a reference to the recent deadly attacks by Pakistani terrorists that have incited public anger.