New Delhi: Yoga guru Ramdev’s close aide Ved Pratap Vaidik’s meeting with Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed in Lahore created a controversy yesterday with the opposition Congress asking if he was sent as an emissary, even as the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) distanced themselves from the meeting, saying Saeed was a “terrorist”.
There was uproar over the issue in the Rajya Sabha soon after the house met yesterday, forcing its adjournment twice.
The Congress asked if Vaidik was sent as an emissary and why proper channels had not been followed.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said he was surprised when Vaidik, who is a columnist and a journalist, claimed to be an emissary. “It is most surprising Vaidik claims to be intermediary. Who sent him on the mission?” he questioned.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said it was “not a small issue”.
“He (Vaidik) is not just a journalist. This person claims to be an emissary. Such a meeting cannot take place without officials being informed,” he said. “The external affairs ministry will have to give a statement,” he added.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, clarified that Vaidik was not sent as a government representative. “As far as the government is concerned, Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist. The government of India has nothing to do with any journalist in his individual capacity meeting him,” Jaitley said.
A Congress leader privately said that Vaidik was seemingly close to the Sangh Parivar and his meeting with Saeed could not have taken place without the knowledge of the authorities.
The BJP said it disapproved of Vaidik’s meeting with Saeed.
“It is not our mistake. We disapprove it,” BJP leader and union minister Prakash Javadekar said after a party briefing. He said journalists had the freedom to meet people but the BJP disapproves of any such meeting.
He said the Congress had not taken action when separatist leader Yasin Malik shared the dais with Saeed on the issue of hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Yoga guru Ramdev, whose association with Vaidik extends to about two decades, said he would talk to his aide about the meeting. However, he defended Vaidik by saying that he must have met Saeed as a journalist.
“I will talk to Vaidik. I am very confident that even if he has met him, he must have tried to change his (Saeed’s) heart. Vaidik is a renowned journalist and when a journalist in any context meets a personality, it is for good and to know the person’s expectation,” Ramdev said.
Vaidik’s Twitter account showed many pictures of his meeting with Saeed as also Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Vaidik said he met Saeed on July 2 in Lahore and had an hour-long chat with him in his capacity as a journalist.
The 69-year-old Vaidik was founder-editor of Hindi news agency Bhasha.IANS