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Indian health minister claims cancer is caused by sins from a past life.
An Indian health minister has sparked outrage after claiming cancer is caused by sins in a past life.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, who holds office in the Assam state government, said people could also develop the disease through “divine justice” if their parents had sinned.
The minister’s comments drew anger from cancer sufferers, their families, and from political opponents of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, of which he is a member.
Indian news agency PTI quoted Mr Sarma as saying in a speech: “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.
“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.”
Many took to social media to criticise the remarks.
Journalist Smita Sharma tweeted: “I don’t tweet about personal issues. But I have to say this-my niece was only 11yrs old when she lost her father to cancer.
“Innumerable families have gone through the unspeakable pain & trauma of Cancer. I wouldn’t wish it even upon worst enemies. Shame on you Mr.Min @himantabiswa.”
Newsreader Supriya Shrinate added: “Too enraged to resist tweeting. Shame on you @himantabiswa I pity you and your mindset.
“You are too insensitive to be an elected rep. Cancer is traumatic for patients and families. How will you pay for this sin? Awfully sick man.”
Attempting to clarify his remarks following the backlash, Mr Sarma tweeted: “I simply asked a new batch of teachers to work sincerely and work for [the] poor.
“In that context I argue that if we do not work sincerely in next life we might face karmic deficiency and that may lead to sufferings. What is insensitive about this?
“Go through my speech. I never said that sin cause cancer.it was a speech to motivate teacher. Serve [the] poor or otherwise you may face karmic deficiency and suffer in next life.”
Cancer is a growing problem in India, where a lack of awareness has partly led to a five per cent increase in diagnoses among women, according to a report released this year by Ernst & Young.
The study found 2,000 Indian women are diagnosed with a form of the disease every day, with 60 per cent detected at a late stage.