New Delhi: With the opposition seeking to corner it, Government today condemned the meeting that a journalist had with 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed and said it has sought a report from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad about whether they were aware of this.
The issue rocked both Houses of Parliament for the second day today with opposition raising questions over the meeting of the journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik, known to be close to BJP supporter and yoga guru Ramdev, claiming that “revelations” are coming out day by day.
The issue led to disruptions and several adjournments in both House since yesterday when the news reports about the meeting emerged.
“The Government of India totally disapproves of this meeting of Ved Pratap Vaidik... The government condemns this meeting with the chief accused of Mumbai terror attack,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha.
She insisted the government has nothing to do with it and “nothing to hide”.
A full report has been sought from the Indian High Commission in Pakistan and it will be shared with the House, she promised.
Her response came as opposition members attacked the government over the meeting, saying its silence is intriguing and questioned how the Indian mission in Islamabad was not aware of it. Members also wanted to know if any action would be taken against Vaidik.
In the Lok Sabha, Swaraj said government has nothing to do with the journalist meeting India's one of the most-wanted terrorists in Pakistan recently.
“Allegations that the government facilitated the journalist's meeting with Hafiz Saeed is false and baseless,” Swaraj said.
“I am saying with full responsibility and very categorically and unequivocally that the government is in no way associated with this meeting.
“Neither did he (Vaidik) while going to Pakistan, nor after going there, inform us that he was meeting Hafiz Saeed.
This is purely a private visit and a personal meeting,” she said.
“The charges that he had gone there as somebody's emissary or that he is a follower of someone and that the government was associated with the meeting in any way is completely untrue, baseless and very unfortunate. Government of India has nothing to do with it,” Swaraj said.
In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “This is a diplomatic misadventure of a private individual. The Indian State has nothing to do with it...The person (Vaidik) or his views has nothing to do with either the government or my party.”
His statement led to uproar with slogan-shouting Congress members storming the Well.
Stating that the concerns of the Leader of the Opposition are also the concerns of the entire country, Jaitley said, “The person or his views has nothing to do with either the government or my party.”
He also said, “If there is one party which in the last 66 years has a very strong view on Jammu and Kashmir it is my party.”
The issue led to adjournment of Rajya Sabha thrice while Lok Sabha was adjourned once.
As soon as Lok Sabha met for the day, Congress members led by Mallikarjun Kharge were on their feet demanding a reply from the government on the meeting.
When the Speaker declared that Question Hour will not be suspended, Congress members trooped into the Well shouting slogans like ‘Vaidik ko mat bachao' (Don't save Vaidik), ‘Home Minister jawab do' (Home Minister give reply), ‘Hafiz ka sach batao' (Tell us the truth on Hafiz affairs).
In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said someone in this government must have facilitated the meeting.
“This is not just a matter of concern for us, but it is a matter of concern for the entire nation...If Vaidik has said something directly or indirectly to Hafiz Saeed, what action have we initiated against him,” Azad asked during Question Hour.
Azad said the journalist told a Pakistani TV channel in an interview that had he been the Prime Minister he would have allowed his (Saeed's) entry to Kashmir without visa and that he was for Kashmir's ‘azadi' and that PoK and ‘Indian Kashmir' should unite to form a separate entity.
“In Kashmir, there are a number of organisations that have not said so openly...even those whom we have jailed,” he said and demanded a statement from the Leader of the House.
Vaidik, a freelance journalist, had met the Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief in Lahore on July 2 while touring Pakistan along with a group of journalists and politicians invited by a peace research institute.