A day after his remarks on people suffering from cancer sparked a political slugfest, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Thursday claimed he was quoted out of context in a bid to sensationalise his speech at an event in Guwahati, and offered an “unconditional apology” for any pain caused.
Himanta claimed his remarks were made “in the context of helping poor students of Government schools and request to teachers not to neglect them”.
He alleged that a section of media and few leaders in the Congress have been “playing the story”.
“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 2 Re lacs 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 health minister of Assam,” he was quoted as saying in a press release.
He also lashed out at those trying to gain “political mileage and cheap publicity”, and tendered his “unconditional apology” for the pain caused.
“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. I reiterate at no point my statement was intended to cause any pain to cancer patients. 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,” he said.
Earlier, on Wednesday, Sarma while distributing appointment letters to 248 school teachers at a function in Guwahati, had said, “People cannot compensate for the sins that are committed against the Unseen. Many often wonder why a person has been afflicted by cancer, why a young man has been affected by cancer. But when you see the background, it will be found that it is divine justice, nothing else.”
Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram took to Twitter and said: “‘Cancer is divine justice for sins’ says Assam Minister Sharma. That is what switching parties does to a person.”
Kapil Sibal too lashed out at Sarma saying it is ‘divine injustice’ that a person like Sarma is a minister. He tweeted, “Hemanta Biswa Sarma says that cancer is divine justice for sins committed. That such a person is minister is divine injustice.”