The argument for giving the death penalty to child rapists has grown strong in recent times, considering the seriousness of the crime, and how such sickos go back to lead normal lives and continue to be threats to the safety of children.
But on Thursday, the central government told the Supreme Court that it was against capital punishment for those who rape children. And even as the wisdom of such a decision is being questioned because of the rising number of child rapes, on Friday, a private member's Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha by a prominent BJP lawmaker to make the death penalty mandatory for cow slaughter. Yes, it is not a joke.
A Cow Protection Bill that calls for capital punishment
For sure, the Bill was not moved by the government but it was moved by BJP lawmaker Subramanian Swamy, and although it may not reflect the government's thinking on the matter, it shows how lopsided the priorities of India's lawmakers – and the ruling party– are.
Swamy introduced the Cow Protection Bill, 2017, in the Rajya Sabha, seeking capital punishment for those who slaughter cows. The Bill wants to create "an authority to ensure stabilisation of population of cows" and provide deterrent punishment to those who slaughter cows.
"It was the British who made cow slaughter fashionable in our country. Modern science says cows have many scientific uses. Urea is used to make modern allopathic medicines. The U.S has given patents for urine to be used in medicine," Swamy said while introducing the bill.
He further added, "Our ancient rishis have told us this. The veneration of the cows is justifiable for these reasons. We should set up gaushalas in every village. Because cow meat has such high export value, we need a strong punishment as a deterrent. Capital punishment."
Swamy withdrew the Bill on Friday under pressure from his party bosses.
Death penalty for child rapists
On the other hand, additional solicitor general PS Narasimha has told the Supreme Court that "death penalty is not the answer for everything", despite the unending stream of reports of child rape and murder almost on a daily basis.
The Centre opposed death penalty to paedophiles and rapists despite a increasing public outcry for a deterrent punishment. The government also made it clear that it would not make any amendments to the existing laws on child abuse.
Narasimha said the current Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act has stringent provisions for punishing those who sexually assault children. Those who are accused of raping a child can get a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. If it is a gangrape of a minor, the punishment could range from 20 years to life imprisonment.
Cows over children, the Indian logic
We live in a strange political milieu that seeks to accord protection to cows but can tolerate the rising atrocities against children -- despite the many reports daily that show existing laws are hardly a deterrent to child abusers.
Children are our future and those who brutalise them deserve little sympathy. But in our country it is now the new normal for reports of child rape and murder to be subsumed by headlines on the need to protect the cow, by the reports that seek to attribute a scientific aura to beliefs about the medicinal properties of cow dung and urine, and such absurd truths.
Somewhere the ruling party and the government seem to have lost the plot: give the cows all the protection they need, but don't ignore our children's safety. The zeal for the protection of cows can be endlessly debated, but the lack of interest in protecting our children from sexual predators cannot be pardoned. What we need is quick, decisive action before things spiral out of control.