As the row over Ved Pratap Vaidik’s meeting with Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Sayeed escalated, Rahul Gandhi, on Tuesday, called the journalist an “RSS man” and questioned whether the Indian High Commission in Islamabad had facilitated the parleys.
“The question is did the Indian embassy facilitate the gentleman (Vaidik) or not. We are curious to find out if Indian embassy has facilitated this event.
“If they helped this gentleman in any way. That’s what we are curious about,” the Congress Vice President told reporters, a day after the party targeted the Prime Minister’s Office over the meeting alleging its “direct involvement” and asked the government to “come clean” on the issue.
“Ya he is an RSS man. That’s a known fact,” Gandhi said to a question about Vaidik, a close aide of yoga guru Ramdev.
Vaidik, who has come under attack after his meeting with Saeed in Lahore on July 2 while touring Pakistan, denied he is an RSS man. “Not even for one day I have been a member of RSS. Let him(Rahul) say whatever he likes,” he said.
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RSS leader Ram Madhav, who recently joined BJP, asserted that Vaidik has no relation with RSS, saying a person roaming around with Congress leaders is not from the Sangh fountainhead.
“Vaidik saab has no relation with RSS. The person who roams around with Mani Shankar Aiyer and Salman Khurshid is not from RSS,” he said.
“In any case Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist. With regard to India he is a criminal. Whenever he comes to India, he will brought as a criminal under the Indian law and order system,” Madhav added.
With the Narendra Modi government coming under attack over the Vaidik issue both inside and outside Parliament, BJP leaders called it a diversionary tactics of Congress, asserting the journalist was “neither authorised nor representing the government or BJP”.
M Venkaiah Naidu, who is also Parliamentary Affairs Minister, alleged that Congress was trying to “divert” the attention of the people and the entire episode was part of the “disinformation campaign against this government and BJP”.
“I feel that the Congress party is trying to make an issue of one of the journalists meeting with Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the terrorist attack. That’s a private affair.
Vaidik also came under attack for some of his reported comments on Kashmir to a Pakistan TV channel.
“If he really said what he is believed to have said about Kashmir, if he went to Pakistan and bad-mouthed India, then action should be taken against him of the same type of action initiated against Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru,” Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said Vaidik’s passport “should be seized and he should not be allowed in Kashmir”.
When told that he was part of a delegation of Congress leaders who had gone to Pakistan, Azad said, “It was a 13-member delegation which had gone for that particular conference for which he was invited. It was held on June 14.
While 12 members including Mani Shankar Aiyar and Salman Khurshid returned the next day, only three persons including him (Vaidik) stayed back and for the reasons best known to him.
“What he has done during that period… he has a 70- minute meeting. It is not a small thing.” Referring to Yasin Malik meeting with Sayeed, he said “When Yasin Malik met Hafiz Sayeed then BJP was in Opposition and that time they wanted immediate arrest of Malik and
seizure of his passport. They also said in future he should be denied to go abroad,” adding “we did not defend him (Malik)
and our stand is that Malik should not have met Sayeed.”
Questioning the role of intelligence agencies Azad said, “If responsible people from our country go and met a murderer and somebody who is aiding and abetting terrorists in India that means so many people must be meeting such on different occasion and govt does not know anything. Then what are our internal and external secret agencies doing.”
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy demanded seizure of Vaidik’s passport and claimed that the meeting was facilitated by Mani Shankar Aiyar, who had led the delegation to Pakistan.
Aiyar refuted the charge, calling it “utter nonsense”. SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said “The statement of the government on Vaidik is inadequate.”
Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said, “We want to know that who has sponsored Vaidik’s trip to Pakistan and who facilitated his meeting with Sayeed.”
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, however, said, “It is not linked to the government anyway. Government has nothing to with it. Where a journalist will go or not it has nothing to do with the government.”
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said “Vaidik himself has stated that he had gone on his own and it has no authorisation of the government. He has gone on his own initiative. He does not have any government approval for it.”
BJP MP Prabhat Jha said, “It is wrong to say he belongs to RSS.” Azad said when earlier a “non-mainstream” person had met Saeed, BJP had raised the matter, but it was silent now.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said though the journalist wrote a lengthy article in a Hindi daily on his Pakistan visit, he did not mention about the meeting with Saeed.
He also said the silence on the part of the government about the meeting was “intriguing.”