In a controversial statement, NITI Aayog member VK Saraswat justified the Centre’s decision to ban internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, saying internet was used by people of Jammu and Kashmir to watch ‘gandi filmein’ (dirty films). Saraswat, however, issued a clarification shortly saying that the internet shutdown in Kashmir “did not have significant effect on the economy”.
On the sidelines of the annual convocation at Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT), Saraswat said, “Yeh jitne politicians wahan jaana chahate hai, woh kisliye jana chahate hai? Woh jaise andolan Delhi ki sadko pe ho raha hai, woh Kashmir mein sadko par lana chahte hai. Aur jo social media hai, woh usko aag ki tarah istamal karta hai. Toh aapko wahan internet na ho toh kya antar padhta hai? Aur waise bhi aap internet mein wahan kya dekhte hai? Kya e-tailing ho raha hai wahan pe? Wahan gaandi filme dekhne ke alaawa kuch nahi karte aap log”. (Why do politicians want to go to there (Kashmir)? They want to re-create the protests happening on the roads of Delhi in Kashmir. And they use social media to fuel these protests. So 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.)
“Main yeh baat bata raha hoon ki internet Kashmir mein agar nahin hai, toh uss se economy pe kuch khaas antar nahi padhta (I am saying that if there is no internet in Kashmir, then it does have a significant effect on the economy),” he later said.
Saraswat was quoted as saying by a leading English website that internet has been suspended in Kashmir because it will be misused by terrorists to foment trouble in Kashmir. “Internet is down in Kashmir, but isn’t internet available in Gujarat? The reason for shutting down internet in Kashmir is different. If Article 370 had to be removed, and if Kashmir had to be taken forward, we know there are elements there which will misuse this kind of information in a manner that will affect the law and order situation,” he said.
It may be recalled that Internet services, landline and mobile phones were snapped across Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019 after the Centre decided to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Notably, most of the services except mobile internet were restored in Jammu within a week, the restoration of landlines and postpaid mobile services and internet facilities to essential services like hospitals in Kashmir valley took around five months and they were restored in phases.