The Congress on Monday saw a PMO “connection” behind former journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik’s meeting with Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan. The issue rocked Parliament on Monday with the Congress MPs demanding Vaidik’s arrest and rejecting the government’s assertion that it had nothing “directly, indirectly or even remotely” to do with any journalist meeting Saeed.
Within hours of the uproar in the House, Saeed tweeted his disapproval on @HafezSaeedJUD: “We meet everyone with an open heart, whoever wants to meet; regardless of nation, belief or religion. Sadly,So called ‘Secular’ India is unable to bear an informal meeting of her journalist, Mr.Videk (sic); another eg of Indian narrow mindedness.”
Slamming the government, Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said: “The PMO is directly involved in sending him. The government should come clean.”
Pointing to Vaidik’s link with the Vivekananda International Foundation, Ahmed said, “The foundation has many RSS members… Three members of the foundation are in the PMO. If Vaidik, who is also associated with the foundation, goes to Pakistan and meets Hafiz Saeed, then a serious question arises. Did he go to meet Saeed on the PM’s instruction?”
The uproar over the issue forced two adjournments in Rajya Sabha during the question hour. Congress MPs in both Houses sought a detailed statement from the government. They also wanted to know if Vaidik had sought government’s permission before meeting Saeed.
Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress will seek a debate in the House on the issue. “How can the meeting happen… Did India’s intelligence agencies know about the meeting? The issue is, who’s messenger or envoy was he? Who’s message and what message did he take? Someone must have facilitated his meeting. He must have asked someone, if not the Foreign Minister or the Prime Minister,” Azad said.
Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said for India, Saeed was a terrorist and involved in terrorism against India. “Government has not sanctioned permission to anyone for meeting him (Saeed),” he said.
The Congress also raised the issue in Lok Sabha during the zero hour with MP K C Venugopal demanding a statement from the Home Minister. Later, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Jyotiraditya Scindia sought to mount pressure exhorting the Chair to extract a reply from the government.
BJP and RSS both appeared disapproving of Vaidik’s move with RSS leader V Satish tweeting his disapproval. Union Minister and BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar distanced the party from the meeting saying “The Indian government has nothing to do with either the visit or meeting the people there.”
Interestingly, it was on Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s invitation on behalf of Regional Peace Institute (RPI), Islamabad, that Vaidik made the controversial trip to Pakistan. Aiyar is on the board of governors of RPI.
Baba Ramdev also tweeted: “He (Vaidik) must have conveyed the path of satya & ahinsa to him (Hafiz).