The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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RSS, Sena pull out of Pak goodwill trip

New Delhi, Aug. 9: Representatives of the RSS and the Shiv Sena finally dropped out of the delegation which left for Islamabad today to attend the Indo-Pak conference organised by the South Asia Free Media Association. Their reasons were, however, different.

RSS sources said its nominees, who included M.G. Vaidya, Muzaffar Hussain and K.P. Aggarwal, cried off the visit because the organisers did not “extend a proper invitation”.

“The organisers did not have the minimum courtesy to send a proper invite. All that we got was an unsigned note on fax giving a brief account of the conference,” sources said.

The other reason, the sources said, was the “misrepresentation” of Pakistan Opposition leader Fazl-ur Rehman’s visit to the RSS headquarters in Delhi by the country’s press. According to reports reaching the Jhandelwalan headquarters, the Pakistani press made out as if the hardliner from the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam was sought after by the Sangh because of a “belated realisation” that even “Hindu fundamentalists” had to make peace with their Pakistani counterparts if the neighbours were to co-exist in peace.

“That was the last straw,” said an RSS source, adding: “We agreed to meet Rehman only after BJP high-ups persuaded us to do so. It was at the risk of confusing our own cadre but still we did it.”

The Jamiat hardliner, during his visit last month, had met RSS leaders H.V. Seshadri and Madan Das Devi and VHP big guns Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Acharya Giriraj Kishore.

Even Seshadri Chari and Tarun Vijay — the editors of the two publications that reflect the RSS’ views, Organiser and Panchajanya — who were supposed to travel as journalists cancelled their plans after the other three RSS members did.

Sources in the media association, however, maintained that they went through the motion of putting out a proper invitation and even tried to help Vaidya secure his passport. The problem, they said, was that the RSS kept changing its stand ever since they approached the organisation to send its delegates through Pondicherry governor K.R. Malkani.

The sources said if at one point the RSS gave the impression of wanting to “make up” with Pakistan, on another occasion they sounded “churlish” enough to say: “We will carry our own food because we will not even drink a drop of water on Pakistani soil.” The organisers wondered how this sort of “attitude” would play out during the trip.

The lone Sena representative, Sanjay Nirupam, said he called off his trip at the last moment because of a change of heart. Nirupam said: “At the briefing given by the external affairs ministry (before the trip), I overheard a member of Parliament say why should we take briefing from these people' I will speak what my heart tells me to. I sensed there will be gadbad (trouble), so I decided not to associate myself with this delegation.”

Nirupam said his party supremo Bal Thackeray had cleared the visit after he convinced him that it was a goodwill delegation and would not entail a compromise on the Sena’s anti-Pakistan stand.

Saheb told me to repeat whatever we have been saying about Pakistan in the visit,” he said.

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