Ahmedabad/Srinagar: NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat has courted controversy with his remarks that shutdown of Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 did not have any significant effect on its economy as people there only use Internet for "watching dirty films".
The comments defending the suspension of Internet drew strong reaction from trade bodies in Jammu and Kashmir which demanded his immediate removal for "maligning" the people of the Union Territory, while CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury also hit out at Saraswat, saying he needs to read the Indian Constitution.
Saraswat made the controversial remarks in Gujarat's Gandhinagar on Saturday after attending the convocation of the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
"What difference does it make if there's no internet there? What do you watch on internet there? What e-tailing is happening there? Besides watching dirty films, you do nothing there," he told reporters on a query about suspension of Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir over five months ago when its special status was scrapped.
"If there is no internet in Kashmir, it does not have any significant effect on the economy," he said.
Asked about his remarks, Saraswat on Sunday claimed that he was "quoted out of context" and apologised if it has hurt the feelings of people of Kashmir or anybody else.
"During the conversation somebody talked about Kashmir and I said 'yes internet is required and I respect the feeling of all Kashmiris in this regard that they should be provided internet and agree with the fact that they should have the freedom'.
"But sometimes governments have to take action for maintaining law and order and security to shut down the internet for sometime. Then the conversation was over and we were talking about many other things. And from many other things, they picked up all this nonsense. I have been misquoted, I have been quoted wrongly and out of context," he told PTI.
"I have also said that because of being misquoted by the media, if it has hurt the feelings of people of Kashmir or anybody for that matter, I apologise for that," he added.
Condemning Saraswat's remarks made in Gandhinagar, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) president Sheikh Ashiq said it is unbecoming of a person entrusted with serious responsibilities to make such statements that "malign the population of Kashmir".