Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has kicked up a storm with his remarks that some people suffer from life-threatening diseases such as cancer because of sins committed in the past which he called "divine justice".
The comments sparked sharp reactions in the political circles and among cancer patients.
"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," Sarma said at a function organised for distribution of appointment letters to teachers here on Tuesday.
"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. It is mentioned even in Gita, Bible about the outcome of one's actions. No point in being sad... 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," he said.
Reacting to the comments, Congress leader Debabratta Saikia on Wednesday said, "It is unfortunate that the health minister has made such a remark on cancer patients hurting their feelings. As he has made the remark publicly, the minister should also apologise for it publicly."
AIUDF leader Aminul Islam asserted that the health minister made this remark to cover his failure to control the spread of cancer in the state.
"He has given up, he can't control," he said.
Some cancer patients said they were saddened by the health minister's remarks at a time when it is an established medical fact that there are scientific reasons and various other parameters responsible for the disease.
State-run Dr B Barooah Cancer Institute's Medical Superintendent Dr B B Borthakur sought to downplay Sarma's remarks.
"I don't think the minister made the remark on scientific basis but in a social context as I understand. I don't think it is a matter to be made into a controversy. It is not a matter to be given so much importance," he said.