Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday tried to push back against criticism of his statement from a day prior that cancer is “divine justice” for sinning. In a tweet, Sarma insisted that he had simply said that “human sufferings are linked to karmic deficiencies of past lives”. But a video of the event, where the minister was speaking to a group of teachers, shows clearly what Sarma said.

The minister can be seen sharing his insight in Assamese after 45 seconds into the video:

“Nobody can escape divine justice...God makes us suffer when we sin,” Sarma told a group of teachers at an event. “Sometimes, we come across young men with cancer or those who meet with accidents. If you observe the background, you will come to know that it is divine justice. Nothing else. We have to suffer that divine justice.”

Sarma went on to say that even if parents did something wrong in their past lives, “that divine justice will always be there”.

The comments received much flak and prompted Congress leader P Chidambaram’s tweet on the video, which said: “‘Cancer is divine justice for sins,’ says Assam minister Sarma. That is what switching parties does to a person.

In response, the following day, Sarma said, “Please, do not distort” and insisted he was talking about past lives and karmic deficiencies.