The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Sunday demanded the immediate removal of NITI Aayog member VK Saraswat for his remarks defending the suspension of internet services in the Union Territory, PTI reported.

Saraswat on Saturday claimed that the suspension of internet services in Jammu and Kashmir did not have a “significant effect” on the economy as it was used to only watch “dirty films”.

“We condemn these remarks,” Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Sheikh Ashiq was quoted as saying. “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.”

“We at the Chamber know that our economy has been deeply affected by the suspension of internet services,” Ashiq added. “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.” Losses to the business sector are more than 18,000 crore in the past six months, Ashiq said.

“People like him are taking advantage of the situation and talking nonsense,” Ashiq said, adding that “such filthy minds can do no justice in the NITI Aayog”. The business community of Kashmir is going through a “a very difficult” time and is trying “all sorts of ways and means” to recover. “But remarks like this do not help.”

It would have been better if Saraswat had maintained silence given that the economy on not just Kashmir but all of India was moving from “bad to worse” and the NITI Aayog has failed to form any redressive policy. “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,” Ashiq said. “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.”

While speaking to reporters in Gandhinagar on Saturday, Saraswat had asked why politicians want to go to Kashmir. “They want to re-create the protests happening on the roads of Delhi in Kashmir,” he said. “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.”

Later, he clarified: “I am saying that if there is no internet in Kashmir, then it does not have a significant effect on the economy.”

On August 5 last year, the Centre had amended Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status. It had imposed a curfew, detained political leaders and banned all communication services.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday restored 2G mobile data services, but only for access to a set of 153 “whitelisted” websites, in all districts of Jammu division and two districts of Kashmir division – Kupwara and Bandipora. Mobile internet services will remain suspended in the districts of Budgam, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Srinagar, Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian and Pulwama. The administration had restored broadband services in institutions dealing with “essential services” on Tuesday night. Social media websites continue to be banned in the region.