Declaring terrorism to be the enemy of humanity and warning that countries sheltering terrorists would not go unpunished, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that at times, war became inevitable because of the sheer nature of circumstances.
In his first public comment on terrorism after the Army’s successful surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK), Modi said, “Samay ke bandhanon se, paristhitiyon ki aawashyaktaon se, yuddha kabhi kabhi anivarya ho jata hai (compulsions of time and requirements of a situation can render war unavoidable).”
The PM emphasized that India has always preferred Buddha (peace) over Yuddh (war and conflict) and turned to Mahabharata and Ramayana to provide the contexts for the exceptions. “Both Krishna and Ram had to fight wars. But we have been able to transcend the reliance on war and evolved into a people who instead prefer peace,” said Modi, who began and ended his speech with the ‘Jai Sri Ram’ greeting.
The keenly-awaited speech at the historic Aishbagh Ramlila celebrations was heard by a responsive audience and came against the backdrop of India’s defiant insistence that it reserves the right to carry out more raids across the Line of Control to defend itself against jihadi groups. Calling for a multinational effort to stamp out the menace, Modi said, “We have to root out terrorists and those who help them cannot be spared.”
In what was seen as a veiled dig at China, Modi also said those who thought they were immune from terrorism were grossly mistaken and cited the experience of countries which committed the mistake of viewing terrorism as merely a “law and order issue”. “I remember countries like America till as late as 1992-93 used to term it a local law and order problem when India complained about terror activities in the country. But after 26/11, several countries including America changed their opinion and acknowledged the presence of terror in India,” the PM said.
Modi’s decision to attend the Ramlila celebrations at Aishbagh grounds, the first by a PM, created a controversy with his opponents alleging that he would use the occasion to milk the surgical strikes to promote BJP’s campaign for the UP polls scheduled next year. Modi, who had earlier declared that this “Vijaydhashami will be special”, did not specifically mention the Army’s retaliation against the attack on the Uri camp.
However, the remark that India would not run away from a battle if it was forced upon it and his focus on terrorism ensured that the issue loomed large through the evening which saw Modi intently watching ‘Ravan Vadh’, the slaying of Ravana. Modi dipped into the Ramayana to describe the vulture Jatayu as the “first counter-terrorist”. He also sought to drive home social messages like Beti Bachao where he urged people to “save the Sitas in your homes”.
Modi exhorted people to fight against terror with unity as the menace would be eradicated if the entire nation was cautious and united. “We shall wipe out terror from our land with countrywide unity of 125 crore people,” he said, adding that sometimes, war was imposed and one was helpless to avoid it. “But we must have faith in peace and amity and keep fighting for it,” he said.