A controversial photograph of Indian journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik in conversation with 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan has raised hackles in India, given that the latter is the most wanted man here for his role in the dastardly 26/11 attacks.
The photograph, where the two are seen sitting and conversing, has emerged just days after Saeed had made a hate speech against India at the Lahore High Court, but the meeting is suspected to have taken place before that on 2 July, according to NDTV.
Vaidik is said to have met the founder of the terrorist outfit Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), while touring Pakistan as part of a delegation, invited by a peace research institute along with other journalists and scholars.
Vaidik, known to be a close aide of yoga proponent Baba Ramdev, is attempting to diffuse anger saying he met Saeed in the capacity of a journalist, and that he had also met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his trip.
"A journalist must meet all kinds of people... I wanted to prove him wrong and influence his thinking," Vaidik told the news channel.
Anger is expected to build around this issue given that Saeed had admittedly orchestrated the deadly 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008, where ten terrorists including Ajmal Kasab landed on a boat and wreaked havoc across crowded places such as the Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Taj Hotel, Cafe Leopold and several other places. 166 people had perished in the attack.
He is now of India's most wanted list and is said to be roaming freely in Pakistan despite having a US bounty of 10 million dollars on his head.
Interestingly, Saeed is said to have "welcomed" Modi to Pakistan, during his conversation with Vaidik. In an interview with the news channel, Vaidik said when asked if he would demonstrate against Modi on his visit to Pakistan, Saeed replied he would "whole-heartedly welcome" him.
The photo has evoked sharp reactions from the Congress, with Digvijay Singh tweeting –
Ved Pratap Vedik meets Hafiz Sayeed . Any reaction on Social Media ? Did he go as an Envoy of NDA Govt or as a personal Envoy of PM ?
— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) July 13, 2014
The Congress is also set to raise the issue in Parliament.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has shown its affinity to Ramdev in the past, is also distancing itself from the highly-controversial matter.
"He (Vaidik) himself should explain his intention behind meeting," BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
Ramdev, however, has come out in support of the journalist, saying Vaidik's purpose behind meeting the terrorist was to "change his heart."
The Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned by Speaker Hamid Ansari after Congress memebrs brought up the issue today, demanding to know the purpose and motive behind the meeting.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the Upper House the government did not have anything to do with Vaidik's meet with Saeed.
"Government had not sanctioned permission to anyone for meeting him (Saeed)," Jaitley said.
However, the Opposition has demanded Vaidik's arrest over the matter stating that it was a matter of national security.