Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the Ramleela event held at Aishbagh maidan in Lucknow on Tuesday. In his brief address, Modi brought up the issue of international terrorism and called it "the enemy of humanity". He said, "Those who shelter terrorism cannot be spared. The whole world is being destroyed by terrorism."
His remarks come in view of deteriorating ties with Pakistan over the issue of cross-border terror. Modi said, "Everyone has to speak in one voice against terrorism. If you think we are free from terrorism, you're wrong." The prime minister also brought up gender inequality in the country and said that women needed to be respected and treated well across all religions and backgrounds.
This is reportedly the first time a serving prime minister has attended the well-known event in Lucknow. However, the move has drawn criticism from the Opposition parties in the state, who claimed the event was being politicised ahead of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, The Hindu reported.
Security in the state was also heightened as part of preparations for the prime minister's visit, IANS reported. He was accompanied by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
On Monday, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had made a jibe about Modi's attendance at the event and said, “If elections were being held in Bihar, then the Ravana would have been burnt there.” Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati also criticised Modi’s visit. She also claimed there was a possibility that the government delayed orders for the Army's surgical strike (along the Line of Control with Pakistan) to help the Bharatiya Janata Party win the state election on a nationalist wave the military operation created, the English daily reported.
However, Aishbagh Ramleela committee member, BJP vice-president and Lucknow Mayor Dinesh Sharma dismissed any political angle to the visit. He said Modi would leave before the main event of the 'Ravan Dahan' or burning of Ravan’s effigy. Sharma said this year’s theme, associated with the burning of Ravan’s effigy, is atankvaad ka samool naash (destruction of the root of terrorism) was selected a year in advance, adding that it coincidentally follows the Uri attack and India’s surgical strikes.
Sharma said, “What we mean by terrorism is that Ravan was an attankhi [terrorist]...his atankhi character must be destroyed.”
Diplomatic and military ties between India and Pakistan have deteriorated after an Indian Army facility was attacked in Jammu and Kashmir's Uri on September 18. On September 29, the Army announced it had conducted surgical strikes against terror launchpads along the Line of Control with Pakistan.