Dhaka experienced the horror of teen gangs about two years ago. It has since become widespread throughout Bangladesh. After the violent deaths of the two youths from Chittagong and Khulna, experts and social researchers are saying this outbreak is the result of the lack of education on tolerance and empathy in teenagers. Online activists are saying that gang culture is not new phenomena, but the gangs acting out so violently to the point of committing murder is an alarming issue.
A closer look into the matter reveals that there are many gangs in Uttara, Dhanmondi and Gulshan. These gangs mainly consist of school and college going teenagers. The gang names are taken from various horror films and video games as well as WWF shows. These gangs have recently been overly active in violent conducts and are getting involved in a range of criminal activities.
This is not an issue only in the capital; there have been recent flare-ups in Chittagong as well. Terror spread quickly after the murder of Chittagong Collegiate School student Adnan Isfar, a 15 year old stabbed to death following dispute over a cricket match on 16th January.
In Khulna, seventh grader Razin was stabbed to death during a concert at Khulna Public College on January 20.
The deceased 12 year old Fawmid Tanvir Rajim’s mother said that her son was killed because he protested against the bullying of two of his classmates – Royal and Mitul.
RAB-6 Additional Superintendent of Police Enayet Hossain Mannan said Royal and Mitul had an altercation with the members of 'Golden Boys,' a teen gang from Boikali Bazar area of the city, and Razin's murder was related to that conflict.
Besides 'Golden Boys,' another teenager gang called 'Danger Boys' is operating from Boikali Bazar while there is a third group named 'TSP' in Boyra Palpar. Most of the members of 'Golden Boys' are from comparatively better off sections of the society, while those of 'TSP' are from slum areas.
These teen gangs are mostly engaged in drug abuse and petty crimes, according to police sources.
Khulna Deputy Commissioner Amin Ul Ahsan said it has been easier for the teenagers to fall prey to criminal syndicates as the parental control has not been as intense as it used to be in the past.
Life is turning busier for people in modern times, and they do not find enough time to spend on their children, he added.
Veteran lawyer MM Mujibur Rahman observed that involvement of teenagers at different stages of criminal activities has been more noticeable in recent times. “The godfathers are making use of the teenagers as there is no provision for penalizing the teens. Youths below 18 are sent to juvenile correction centres. In murder cases, the juveniles get maximum 10 years imprisonment. Moreover, juveniles are easily given bails.”
It is noteworthy that five of the seven accused in Razin murder have already been granted the bail.
“Gang Culture has always been around. The main cause of this is conflict among the people. Some aspects of crime exist naturally within society, some others arise from poverty and discrimination”, Hafisur Rahman, a teacher from the Department of Law, University of Dhaka told Bangla Tribune. He said it is possible to come out of the crisis if the cause behind the actions can be uprooted. When asked what these might be, he noted that lack of education on tolerance and empathy is a big factor. He said the portrayal of heroism in media influences the youth as well.
The violent mentality of the youth should not be written off simply as teen fantasy, according to crime analyst Dr. Zia Rahman. “We need to keep in mind that children are easily influenced at this age. They will learn the concept of heroism as the elders teach it. Our society is so crime prone that it has lost the rights to give moral teachings to the youth. As a result, what they consider as ‘power’ is in fact violence”, he told Bangla Tribune.
Online activist Arif Jebtik had an opinion similar to the previous two. He agrees that gang culture has always been around and will continue to exist. He believes such violence is in practice as a result of the guardians’ tendency to continually pressure the children to compete and be the best at everything they do. Such expectations can hardly ever be met and the teenagers get frustrated as they continually fail to meet them. The activist thinks such a reaction from the teenagers is a response to the adverse effects the current society has on young people.
He also criticized the juvenile correctional facilities in Bangladesh. He said that the facilities exist in name only; these need to be developed into proper correctional institutions.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com