Clarifying his remark on people suffering from cancer, Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday said he was quoted out of context in a bid to sensationalise his speech and offered an unconditional apology.
In a statement, the minister said, "My speech on divine justice and Karmic deficiency is being quoted out of context. In their bid to trivialise and sensationalise, no one is looking at the content of my whole speech and intent... However, if owing to the blatant distortions, it has caused any anxiety and problems to anyone, I hereby offer my unconditional apology for the pain."
"It was said in the context of helping poor students of Government schools and request to teachers not to neglect them. It was also a message to indicate district education officers not to harass teachers. I reiterate at no point my statement was intended to cause any pain to cancer patients," the minister added.
"I lost my father, best friends and relatives to cancer. And everyone in Assam and outside know my passion to work on containing cancer through best possible cancer treatment facilities, including free chemotherapy, financial scheme to help up to Rs 2 lakhs to cancer patient, one state-of-art cancer hospital in Guwahati with PET CT, banning chewing tobacco and now starting a grid of hospital in across Assam are some of my humble contribution as the health minister of Assam," Sarma said.
He added a philosophical discourse designed purely to help poor students is being misused and which in turn is causing avoidable anxiety among surviving cancer patients and their close ones.
"I still believe divine justice will catch up with each and every one us for trying to cash in on someone else's pain to gain political mileage and cheap publicity. Detachment from life, karmic action and rebirth are some of the core principles of Hindu philosophy developed over last 5000 years. Western thought process can never dominate or dilute the spirit and eternal meaning of our philosophy," the minister asserted.
Sarma further said so many oncologists in TV studio are citing reasons for cancer, adding, "But why it is happening to certain individuals and not to other in spite of living under the same environment? Science has not been able to give answer to many of our perennial queries and therefore at our last moment, we are asked to pray God."
"While I am not against science, I strongly believe there is strong merit in spirituality and teachings contained in Bhagavad Gita as well as those of our ancestors. I once again offer my apology to those who might have been hurt owing to this absolutely mindless controversy triggered by few political 'desperado'," he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Sarma sparked controversy by saying that cancer and accidents suffered by people are "divine justice" served for their past sins.
Speaking at an event in Guwahati, Sarma said, "God makes us suffer when we sin. Sometimes we come across young men getting inflicted with cancer or young men meeting with accidents. If you observe the background, you will come to know that it's divine justice, and nothing else. We have to suffer that divine justice."
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader further elaborated, saying that the sins could be of this lifetime or previous life, or could be of the parents for which the person has to pay.
Lashing out at Sarma, Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted, "Cancer is divine justice for sins' says Assam Minister Sharma. That is what switching parties does to a person."
Notably, Sarma left the Congress to join the BJP in 2015 over ideological differences.
He received flak from few other politicos as well, who called him out for his insensitivity.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)