Kozhikode: At a banquet held for the foreign affairs ministers of the Non-Aligned Nations in Sri Lanka, did Atal Bihari Vajpayee raise any objections to beef? No, says senior journalist BRP Bhaskar, who was present there for reporting the event.
The veteran journalist's mention appears in the latest chapter of his memoirs 'News Room', being serialised in 'Madhyamam' Malayalam weekly.
The Non-Aligned foreign ministers' meet was held during the term of the Janata government in 1977-79 - in which Vajpayee was minister of foreign affairs. Bhaskar also notes that on crucial issues that had agitated the conference then, Vajpayee was not able to take a firm stand.
The main issue at that conclave was Egypt's departure from its earlier stand when it signed an accord with Israel. Egypt was a founder member of the non-aligned movement.
BRP Bhaskar's version runs thus: "Vajpayee gave a luncheon to Indian journalists. I had dined with him a decade earlier at Vadodara during the national council meeting of Jan Sangh. That day Vajpayee and other delegates had sat before the food was served and started eating by chanting Gayatri hymns. In Colombo, we had our food in the five-star hotel as per the custom there.
"When Vajpayee helped himself to a dish in front of him, a reporter next to him said to him: "Panditji, that's beef". Vajpayee smiled and replied: "This is not Indian cow".
During the racial violence against Tamils in Sri Lanka, writer-poet Kamala Surayya was also there in Colombo and the latest issue of 'News Room' also recounts his experience with her and her husband K Madhav Das who at the time was working there.