Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that there had been silence when women were denied property rights and Dalits were denied access to affirmative action in Kashmir, but suddenly human rights has become the "buzzword" when the area's special constitutional status was rescinded.
She said here on Tuesday: "A temporary Article 370 (of the Constitution) which till now denied women of the state the inheritance, which denied the SCs (Scheduled Castes) of the state a constitutional right for affirmative action, which denied every tribal of the state what positive and affirmative action gave them of the Indian Constitution is now after the removal of Article 370, a temporary article, is going to enable us to provide all that we could."
She was asked during a lecture organised by Columbia University's Deepak and Neera Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies about a report that a Kashmir chamber of commerce had asserted that the area suffered an economic loss of $1 billion due to the "lockdown" there.
"I don't understand what is meant by lockdown," Sitharaman said.
While the internet and the related communications were shut down, economic activity was going on normally, she said.
Apple in season is the biggest economic factor for Jammu and Kashmir and "like never before" the product has been purchased by private and public buyers, she said.
"If people are worried about the economy of J&K, they should be happy for it now because at least now everybody will get the same facility and (there will be) as much investment for the development of the state as is available for the rest of the states of India," she added.
Explaining the reason for the internet shutdown, Sitharaman said that Pakistan was interfering in Kashmir and paying money to people - a majority of them school students - pelting stones at the security forces.
"So on the internet we had to take measures just so that it doesn't lead to amplification of rumour-mongering and so on," she said.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)
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