On April 21 morning, Prime Minister Modi returned from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Europe. Hours later, the 68-year-old Prime Minister held a Cabinet meeting and approved an ordinance allowing for the death penalty in cases where children below the age of 12 have been raped.
Since that day, there has been a rash of stories in mainstream media outlets calling the move a ‘political gimmick’ and trying to run it down. I present here only a few samples from outlets that are usual suspects.
Yes, indeed, everyone got the memo.
In itself, this is not surprising. The mainstream media has reflexively criticized almost every decision that the Modi government has taken in the last four years. Depending on the situation, liberals have opposed everything: low inflation, high inflation, economic reforms, lack of economic reforms, Supreme Court, World Bank, IMF, EVM, RBI, Yoga day, Pythagoras Theorem, just about anything to oppose Modi. On some particularly bad days, ‘liberals’ have even come out in favour of open defecation simply because they hate Modi so much.
However, it takes a special kind of hypocrite to cry wolf when the government brings in the death penalty for rape of children below 12 years of age. Even if they think it is a political gimmick. First, they opportunistically and cynically politicize the rape of an innocent child for their gains. When the other side responds with a political solution to something that *they* turned into a political issue, they cry foul!
When the Kathua incident rocked the national conscience, liberals were perfectly happy to let the single incident dominate the headlines to the exclusion of everything else. Anybody who dared to say a word about rapes of other children around the same time in Assam or Bihar, for instance, was silenced with angry howls of “whataboutism.”
We understand that as a matter of practicality, not every crime can receive the same amount of coverage in a nation of 1.3 billion people. But how do you explain the hostility of the liberal elite at the mention of other similar injustices across the country? If they really cared about the issue of child rape, wouldn’t they welcome people trying to bring other such acts to attention?
When you mention the rape of a child in Bihar, their response was not, “That’s horrifying. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Tell me more. What can we do to help ensure speedy justice?”
Instead, their response was “Shut up.”
It’s like they wanted people to hear about Kathua *only*. Why? Because their target was Modi, not sexual crimes against children. If that means using the rape of an 8-year-old for political gains, so be it.
When you play a game this dirty, you can’t whine when the other side comes up with its own political response. I personally feel that death penalty in matters of child rape is a moral imperative. You may be cynical and you may see it as a political gimmick.
But at least don’t whine. You reap what you sow.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.