Noted scientist and NITI Aayog member VK Saraswat has triggered a controversy by saying the suspension of internet in Kashmir since August last year makes no difference since people only use it to watch "dirty films". Mr Saraswat also tried to justify the internet shutdown in the erstwhile state by claiming that it is necessary for the development of the region and maintenance of law and order since certain elements try to misuse information from the internet to create unrest.
"There are elements in Jammu and Kashmir that misuse information on the internet and disrupt law and order. Why do politicians want to go to Kashmir? They want to recreate protests happening on the roads of Delhi in Kashmir and social media is using that like fire," Mr Saraswat said.
"What difference does it make if there is no internet? You only watch dirty films," Mr Saraswat lashed out at a reporter in Ahmedabad who asked him about internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir. He also went on to say that suspension of internet had no effect on business.
After backlash over his comments, Mr Saraswat was quick to offer a clarification. "I have been quoted out of context. 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 their rights to have internet access," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
People in Jammu and Kashmir have been without internet since August 5 last year, when the centre scrapped the state's special status under Section 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into two union territories. The internet blackout was criticised by many in India and abroad, including the United Nations and the US.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court termed internet connectivity as a "fundamental right" and ordered the administration to review all curbs that have been in place for the last 164 days. The government had agreed to establish 400 internet kiosks across Kashmir with strict conditions for internet service providers, that they will be located largely in government offices and institutions such as tourist centres. The government had also announced that broadband internet will be partially restored in Kashmir, the process for which will be conducted in phases.
Kashmir's chamber of commerce says the Internet shutdown cost the economy over 2.6 billion dollars and over one lakh people lost their jobs.
(With inputs from ANI)