‘People have cancer because of their sins’: Indian health minister sparks outrage
“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. Nothing else. We have to suffer that divine justice,” Himanta Biswa Sarma, a health minister from the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, said, as cited by Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency. He was speaking on Tuesday at an event organized for the distribution of appointment letters to teachers on Tuesday.
Maybe these sick people didn’t commit any sin at all. However, the deadly disease still can get them, as the sins may have been committed by their parents, the minister continued. “In this lifetime or in our previous life, or perhaps my father or mother... perhaps that young man did not do but his father has done something wrong.”
Sarma ended his controversial speech with a ‘reassuring’ comment: “All will get the outcome of this life’s actions in this life only. That divine justice always will be there. Nobody can escape the divine justice that will happen.”
After Sarma’s comments caused heated debate on social media. Many politicians, including Parliament member and ex-Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, lashed out at their colleague.
'Cancer is divine justice for sins' says Assam Minister Sharma. That is what switching parties does to a person.— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) November 22, 2017
#SerialAbuserBJP— Randeep S Surjewala (@rssurjewala) November 23, 2017
Now, BJP Minister & Convenor abuses India’s cancer patients & their families.
Mr. PM, as you tacitly support such lampooning of the brave hearts who fight cancer every second of their life, when will you act and sack such elements?https://t.co/TWSpWm56jw
Such an absurd n bizarre comment. Shocking to see how insensitive certain leaders can be...https://t.co/XLXB87GV7J— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) November 23, 2017
Sarma defended his remarks, saying that everyone had distorted his words. “Simply I said that Hinduism believes in karmic law and human sufferings are linked to karmic deficiency of past life. Don’t you [believe] that too?” he addressed P. Chidambaram.
The Assam health minister started a heated dispute with renowned Indian news anchor and author Rajdeep Sardesai who said that laws of karma shouldn’t be applied to explain cancer.
Let us agree to disagree. I believe we must promote scientific temper not superstition. Cancer is a challenge not a curse! But I am sorry to use a word like 'pumpkin'. My apologies. https://t.co/JbNVJLjvgs— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) November 22, 2017
Did my speech was on cancer? Who told you? I simply asked a new batch of teachers to work sincerely & work for poor.In that context I argue that if we do not work sincerely in next life we might face karmic deficiency & that may lead to sufferings .what is insensitive about this? https://t.co/jlCAbEdh7s— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) November 22, 2017
Sir, with due respect, laws of karma surely should not be used to explain cancer in today's day and age. This is not about Gita but about being more sensitive to the suffering. https://t.co/5JEYEESkRe— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) November 22, 2017
Do not belittle Hindu philosophy in such simplistic way. If you call me anytime to your studio,I will argue with you that karmic law do exist. You can not written of teachings of Bhagavadgita by using the word pumpkin of the day etc https://t.co/wpKz7rpLYn— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) November 22, 2017
In a dozen of other posts Sarma tried to explain his position which was getting more and more incomprehensible and obscure. Finally he wrote: “You have to realize difference between sin and karma. Politics can come and go. But what is written on Bhagavad Gita, is for me the final truth,” he said. Bhagavad Gita or simply the Gita is a verse in Sanskrit which is a part of Hindu epic and Indian philosophy.
However, people on social media were not satisfied by the Gita explanation, calling the minister’s ideology “twisted.”
Assam Health & Edu Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said cancer is the divine justice for sins committed in this life or the previous ones. So as a health minister would he be not interfering with this "justice" system by ensuring treatments in hospitals. Twisted saffron ideologies😳— sandeep sharma (@sansharma81) November 22, 2017
Cancer Patients are Sinners - or their fathers had sinned, thus causing the cancer: BJP's Dr Himanta Sarma, PhD, Assam Health Minister. https://t.co/aoSnQbaiL4— Prasanto K Roy (@prasanto) November 22, 2017
Even #babies suffer from cancer. What sin these Bhagwan Ke roop (innocent kids represent the #God) committed? Mr. Sarma, Plz take next flight to #Mumbai & visit child wing of Tata Memorial Hospial & admonish kids not to commit sins @CMOfficeAssam@PMOIndia@JPNadda@BJP4Assampic.twitter.com/3UX2NUL1zr— Naresh Minocha (@nmleo1) November 22, 2017