When Nationalism Throttles Journalism: Why Is Ved Pratap Vaidik Under Fire?

Posted on July 21, 2014 in Politics

By Ayushi Vig:

In case you haven’t heard, on July 2nd, a journalist interviewed a terrorist. Sounds fairly typical, doesn’t it? Nothing more than what one would expect the media to be up to, collecting information to report as news and that sort of thing–you know, what we call journalism.

ved pratap vaidik

Much of our media and our parliament, however, believes that this journalist should be arrested. You will of course be wondering what this journalist did wrong. You might be wondering if he reached out in support to this terrorist, revealed classified government information, or began to plot a terrorist attack. In reality, however, simple activities of journalism are apparently a cause for arrest–he did nothing more than conduct an interview.

The journalist in question was Ved Pratap Vaidik, and the terrorist was Hafiz Saeed. Saeed is believed to be the brain behind the 26/11 terrorist attack, and Vaidik is the first Indian journalist to meet with him.

The obsession which is currently fixated on their meeting is alarming–neither the media nor the parliament has been able to move on. The Congress has seized this opportunity to protest and present itself as nationalist. All sorts of theories are being exchanged, from accusing Modi’s government of sending Vaidik to the meeting, to suggesting that Vaidik is trying to capture Modi’s attention in order to become a sort of middleman between India and its enemy. As Vaidik told IBN, he simply wanted to “know what kind of a man he (Saeed) is and why he committed heinous crimes against India”, and analyze his mind. Now, perhaps one of these theories is true–we can’t know for sure. But what we should know for sure is that an interview with Saeed does not present a problem, especially one of this scale.

Meeting with and trying to understand the man who organized 26/11 is in no way anti-national. It is common knowledge that India has been able to do nothing about Saeed, or the group behind 26/11. India simply does not have the kind of leverage needed for that to happen. In such a situation, dialogue is the only way to better relations. Saeed represents Pakistan’s suspicious and hostile right wing, which largely does not believe in peaceful dialogue with India. Given that such chances are so rare and unprecedented, does a chance at dialogue here not seem beneficial?

The current reaction to this issue says a lot about our nationalist unity. Indo-Pak relations have always been rather delicate. Yet we managed to move on past 26/11, to trade and to diplomacy. Now we’re doing nothing more than erasing all our progress and bringing the focus back to 26/11–understandably not something that Pakistan is too happy about either. The fact that we are still so touchy as to explode into controversy over Ved Pratap Vaidik exposes our almost non-existent tolerance levels towards Pakistan as well.

India and Pakistan have enough problems to solve; let’s not go out of our way to create more. Let’s not impede freedom of the press. Let’s let the journalists interview the terrorists; there is no harm in fostering open dialogue.