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Ramdev aide Ved Prakash Vaidik says, Met Hafiz Saeed only as a journalist

Ramdev aide Ved Prakash Vaidik says, Met Hafiz Saeed only as a journalist


Prakash Vaidik

Even as his meeting with 26/11 attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed created a furore in Parliament and outside, journalist and Baba Ramdev associate Ved Prakash Vaidik said he had consented to meet the Jamaat-ud-Dawa boss purely at the behest of a journalist friend from Pakistan.

"When I was in Pakistan, the media criticism of Hafiz Saeed in India came up for discussion. It was then that a Pakistani journalist asked me if I would like to meet Saeed in person. I agreed and a call was immediately made to fix the meeting," he told TOI, denying any other motive to his appointment with the most-wanted terrorist.

Refuting allegations that he had met Saeed as an envoy of the Narendra Modi government, Vaidik told TOI that his interface with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa boss was driven only by journalistic considerations. "I would like to tell Congress, which is alleging that I met him on behalf of the government, to attack the Modi regime directly rather than train its guns from my shoulders".

"I am a known name in Pakistan. My writings and articles are translated and reproduced in Pakistani media. In my 55 years of journalistic career, I have not declined to meet anyone. I have met Maoist leaders and LTTE leaders including Prabhakaran," said Vaidik. "I wanted to analyse Saeed's mind and know why he committed heinous crimes against India," he added.

He denied being part of the Vivekananda International Foundation, with which IB chief Ajit Kumar Doval was earlier associated. This has been alleged as the reason why he was chosen to play the government's 'envoy' to reach Saeed. "I have never been associated with the government and do not look at such association in the future. I am an independent journalist who is free to meet anyone," he told TOI. "I have met enemies of the country in the past ... my experience says resolution of conflict is possible not through the gun but talks," he said.

However, asked if he was advocating talks with Saeed, Vaidik said, "I am neither the prime minister not the government's representative.... It is for the government, Army chief, police and the courts to discharge their responsibilities in this regard," he underlined.

The issue led to two adjournments in the Rajya Sabha. Though the government said it had nothing to do with the meeting and that there was no 'Track-2 or Track-3' diplomacy involved, opposition members led by Congress sought to link Vaidik's controversial enterprise with the BJP and highlighted Ramdev's support for Modi's prime ministerial bid. There was uproar in Lok Sabha too with members seeking response over the "purpose and motive" behind the meeting from the home minister or external affairs minister.

Leader of the upper House and finance minister Arun Jaitley said for India, Saeed was a terrorist and indeed involved in terrorism against India. Government had nothing to do with "directly, indirectly or even remotely" with any journalist meeting Saeed. As the controversy refused to die down, minister of state for parliamentary affairs and environment Prakash Javadekar said, "I want to clarify that we don't approve any such activity (meeting with Saeed)".

Even as Vaidik termed his meeting with Saeed as a journalistic call, the latter tweeted: "Row in Indian Parliament over a journalist's meeting with us shows the extremism, narrow-mindedness of their (Indian) politicians...utterly shameful". "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 Vaidik, another eg (example) of Indian narrow-mindedness," Saeed tweeted through his official Twitter handle.

Giving a peek into what transpired during the interview, Saeed said, "We discussed how all 26/11 evidences provided by India have been rejected and (I) asked Mr Vaidik why India does not respect Pakistani courts. Vaidik asked if we would protest Modi's visit to Pakistan, on which I replied, 'We don't participate in such politics and protests'."


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