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HindustanTimes Wed,26 Nov 2014

In line of fire, govt distances itself from Vaidik-Saeed meeting; Ramdev defends aide

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 14, 2014
First Published: 19:17 IST(14/7/2014) | Last Updated: 21:14 IST(14/7/2014)

A recent meeting between freelance journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik and alleged 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed brought the treasury and opposition benches face to face in the Rajya Sabha, forcing two adjournments in the House.

The Congress demanded a detailed statement from the government, which quickly distanced itself from the issue saying it had nothing to do with "directly, indirectly or even remotely" with any journalist meeting Saeed.

"Government had not sanctioned permission to anyone for meeting him (Saeed)," finance minister Arun Jaitley said, reiterating that for India, Hafiz remains a terrorist who was indeed involved in terrorism against India.

Read: Did the Ramdev aide crave for attention?

Vaidik also rejected suggestions that he met Saeed as an envoy of the government.

"Journalists in Pakistan know me for decades. They made a gesture (about meeting Saeed) to me and I said alright I will meet him. It was no big deal for me. It was a simple thing. For me it was like a normal meeting. I have been meeting the Maoists of Nepal, Taliban of Afghanistan...," he told reporters.

Read: Ramdev defends his aide's meeting with Hafiz Saeed

The government was caught in an opposition's line of fire, since Vaidik is a close aide of yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who aggressively campaigned for the BJP, and has been associated with right-wing think tank Vivekananda International Foundation, some of whose members have joined the government at key positions.

Nripendra Mishra and Ajit Doval - two other personalities associated with VIF - have joined the government as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and the National Security Advisor.

Read: Uproar in Rajya Sabha over journo’s meeting with Hafiz Saeed

Ramdev defended Vaidik, saying he would have tried for a "change of heart" in the globally-designated terrorist. "He is a senior journalist and if in any context he is meeting a particular person, then there must be a reason behind it," the yoga guru said.

But, Saeed lapped up the opportunity to send out a series of tweets attacking "narrow mindedness" of India.

"Row in Indian Parliament over a journalists meeting with us shows the extremism, narrow mindedness of their politicians. Utterly Shameful," he wrote in one such tweet.

Watch: Vaidik defends himself over meeting with Hafiz Saeed


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