Breaking from tradition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday attended the historic Ramlila celebrations in Lucknow where he launched a veiled attack on Pakistan, saying those who help and provide shelter to terrorists cannot be spared, but made no reference to the surgical strikes.

Making terrorism the centrepoint of his over 20-minute speech, he said terror was the worst enemy of humanity and called upon the world community to speak in one voice against the menace to put an end to it.

“Terrorism does not have any boundaries. It is bound to destroy all...a need has arisen to root out those who spread terrorism. Those who help terrorists and provide shelter to them can no longer be spared,” he said in an obvious reference to Pakistan without taking its name.

“Terrorism is against humanity. The entire world is being destroyed...if you think that we are insulated against terrorism, then we are wrong. It is a virus affecting our societies. All forces across the world have to talk in one voice and end it. It will not be possible to save humanity without eradicating terrorism,” the prime minister said. “The forces of humanism should unite globally to end the menace,” he said.

Modi became the first prime minister to attend a Ramlila event outside Delhi and his participation at the Aishbagh celebrations assumes significance in the context of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh early next year. The theme of this year’s Dussehra here was ‘destruction of terrorism’.

In the run up to the event on Tuesday, there have been many references to the surgical strikes by characters enacting Ramlila.

In significant gestures, Modi was presented a Sudarshan Chakra, bow and arrow and a mace at the event, symbolising valour.

At the Delhi event at Ramlila Maidan, as usual, President Pranab Mukherjee, vice president Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were present.