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Politics
Cornered govt condemns Vaidik-Hafiz meet, seeks report from high commission
16-07-2014

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 said.

“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 the media.

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.”