New Delhi: A NITI Aayog member who justified internet blockade in Jammu and Kashmir by saying that the service in the region was used to watch dirty films later on Sunday said he was quoted out of context and apologised if his "misquotation" hurt the feelings of the people the erstwhile state.
"I have been quoted out of context," news agency ANI quoted NITI Aayog's VK Saraswat as saying. "If this misquotation has hurt the feelings of the people of Kashmir, I apologise and would not like them to carry this impression that I am against the rights of the Kashmiris to have internet access."
At the sidelines of an event in Gandhinagar on Saturday, Saraswat said the shutdown of internet services in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 did not have any significant impact on the economy as people there did nothing other than watching "dirty films" online.
"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 said. "If there is no internet in Kashmir, it does not have any significant effect on the economy."
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), an apex trade body, on Sunday condemned Saraswat's remarks and demanded his immediate removal.
"We condemn these remarks. They are spreading venom against the people of Kashmir. Nobody gives him the right to speak like this about the people of Jammu and Kashmir and utter this nonsense against us," said KCCI president Sheikh Ashiq.
Ashiq said the whole world knows that the Valley is suffering due to the internet shutdown and the losses to the business sector have amounted to over Rs 18,000 crore in the past nearly six months.
"We at the Chamber know that our economy has been deeply affected by the suspension of internet services. Every sector of our economy has suffered a great deal. If any person says something like this, it speaks a volume about his mind capacity. He has no right to sit in the NITI Aayog," he said.
The KCCI recently submitted a detailed report about the business losses in the Kashmir valley to Lieutenant Governor GC Murmu and Union minister of Commerce Piyush Goyal as well as MoS PMO Jitendra Singh.
Ashiq said the Union Territory is going through a very difficult and challenging phase and people like Saraswat at the NITI Aayog can do no justice to Jammu and Kashmir and demanded his immediate sacking.
"People like him are taking advantage of the situation and talking nonsense. We can read between the lines that such filthy minds can do no justice in the NITI Aayog. We urge the government of India to remove such persons immediately as they can do no justice to the job they are assigned to," he said.
"The KCCI is of the strict opinion that business community of Kashmir is going through a very difficult and trying all sorts of ways and means to recover from this difficult time. But remarks like this do not help," he added.
Ashiq said considering the present state of the economy of not only Kashmir but all over the country, "which is moving from bad to worse", and the "failure" to formulate any redressive policy by the government and the NITI Aayog, it would have been better if Saraswat would have chosen to maintain his silence.
"However, the statement issued by a person holding a responsible position raises concern at the calibre and mental condition of persons entrusted with serious responsibilities. The statement is not only unbecoming, but also maligns the population of Kashmir. The losses caused to our economy is a matter of record and cannot be swept under the carpet by issuance of absurd and factually incorrect statements," he said.
(With inputs from PTI)