Talk about a storm in a teacup. Nobody will be delighted more than Ved Pratap Vaidik with the chaos he has created.
The journalist, who was with me in a 12-member delegation to Pakistan in June, stayed back for weeks while the rest of us returned in three days. He spent this time meeting people, including, for whatever reason, Hafiz Saeed.
Vaidik said on returning to India that Saeed would not oppose a visit to Pakistan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that he (Saeed) asked about Modi’s wife. I do not understand why this came up in the course of an interview, but that is a minor point. Vaidik says he is a journalist and is free to meet whoever he wants. I agree and cannot understand why there was such a commotion over this.
Hungama hai kyon barpa, as Akbar Allahabadi wrote, thodi si jo pee li hai?
The news channels went berserk, which, given how noisy they are most of the time, is saying something. I was on one debate where there was shouting from end to end and the scheduled 40 minutes ended without one coherent thing being said by anyone.
Vaidik’s actions were condemned in Parliament by the foreign minister and the finance minister and the Lok Sabha was brought to chaos for two days. The Indian high commissioner in Islamabad, a nice and hospitable man, was ordered to send a report on whether he knew of Vaidik’s doings (he didn’t).
Rahul Gandhi, who after the elections looks like a boxer up from the canvas but still dazed from the pummeling, said that Vaidik’s being part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was ‘a known fact’. Actually it is not. Vaidik says he is close to the Hindutva groups and individuals, above all to the Rasputin-lookalike yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, but not a signed up member of the RSS. And yet, RAW chiefs and generals were rolled out of retirement to illuminate us on what strategic threats have come out of an old publicity-seeker’s meeting with another old publicity-seeker.
As I said, nobody would be happier with this circus than Vaidik because it aims the spotlight firmly where he likes it. He got the opportunity to remind the world — yet again — that the Parliament had been disrupted over him before; in the 1960s over the rejection by Jawaharlal Nehru University of his PhD thesis on Afghanistan. He was scolded by Times Now’s Arnab Goswami, who told him: “You cannot answer a single question today and all you do is read out your biodata.” But that’s exactly what he wants to do, Arnab. Vaidik got 48 hours to indulge in his, admittedly harmless, passions of name-dropping and self-aggrandisement.
The other thing that set the media off was Vaidik’s statement to Dawn News that Kashmir would be unviable as an independent nation, but should be given as much freedom as possible by India and Pakistan. What is wrong in his saying this most sensible thing? But even this was unbearable going by the rage on the channels.
For me, it is embarrassing as a commentator to see such vivid evidence of all the things one has been writing about as being wrong with India. Strangely, Vaidik called me just the day before the bombshell exploded. On the morning of July 13, he phoned to say that he had liked last week’s column and would show it (to ‘Narendra’ and ‘Amit’). It is certainly true that he knows a lot of big leaders and quite well. In Pakistan, Vaidik went off to meet ‘Nawaz’.
However well he knows him, the Indian prime minister will be absolutely furious with Vaidik. This little pantomime has taken the focus entirely away from Modi while he met the Chinese and went to Brazil. There has been not a word on the great leader’s latest conquests and if there is one thing Modi dislikes, it is the spotlight away from him.
I’m delighted that the BJP is facing heat on this silly issue. They regularly raised similar things all the time in opposition. For instance, attacking Mani Shankar Aiyar for being on a Pakistani show in which Saeed was one of the callers and howling at the then home minister, Sushil Shinde, for referring to the Pakistani as ‘Shri Hafiz Saeed’ (isn’t that just good manners?) and so on.
It is their turn to squirm now in this latest national tantrum that we have thrown, embarrassing ourselves yet against before an amused world.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2014.
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