Cornered govt condemns Vaidik-Hafiz meet, seeks report from high commission
NEW DELHI: Facing opposition heat, a cornered
government on Tuesday denounced yoga guru Ramdev aide Ved Pratap Vaidik’s
meeting with Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed and sought a report from the
Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
The government’s disapproval of the meeting with a man
wanted in India came as an unrelenting opposition took on the Narendra Modi
government in both houses of Parliament, leading to repeated disruptions.
For the second consecutive day, Vaidik claimed he met
Saeed - the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack and one of the three
terrorists India freed in 1999 after an Indian Airlines planed was hijacked -
as a journalist.
Both Monday and till Tuesday afternoon, the government
only distanced itself from the controversial meeting saying it had nothing to
do with it. It came out with a strong condemnation Tuesday evening.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the Rajya
Sabha, “The government totally disapproves of this meeting of Ved Pratap
Vaidik... The government condemns this meeting with the Mumbai terror attack
accused.” She said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had
nothing to do with the meeting and had 'nothing to hide'.
“We have sought a full report from the Indian high
commissioner in Pakistan. Once the report comes, we will share it with the
house.” Despite their majority, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members and their
allies were mostly quiet in the Lok Sabha as the opposition MPs shouted
slogans. The opposition was more vocal in the Rajya Sabha.
Earlier, Sushma Swaraj and her cabinet colleagues
tried to distance the government from the fallout of the Vaidik-Saeed meet. “Categorically
and unequivocally, I would like to state that the government has nothing to do
with Vaidik's trip to Pakistan or his meeting with Hafiz Saeed there,” she
“Neither before going to Pakistan nor after reaching
there did he inform us that he is meeting Saeed... It was purely a private trip
and a personal meeting.” The opposition onslaught began Tuesday with Congress
vice president Rahul Gandhi calling Vaidik, a journalist, an ‘RSS man’.
Gandhi said his party was ‘curious’ to know if the
Lahore meeting between Vaidik and Saeed was facilitated by the Indian mission
in Pakistan. “The question is whether the Indian embassy facilitated this
event... Whether they helped this gentleman (Vaidik) in any way,” Gandhi told
He said it was a ‘known fact’ that Vaidik was linked
to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But Vaidik insisted for a second
consecutive day that he met Saeed as a journalist. “I met him as a journalist.
All doors are open for me. I am not close to anyone or any party. I am known as
the greatest opponent of the Congress.”