Academics and rights activists blamed lack of recreational activities – both socially and culturally, social degradation, weakening roles of the family, unlimited access to internet, lack of moral lessons in the family and the school as well as the stagnant political situation as reasons for growing youth gang culture in the country.
They also said that porn addiction and misuse of android phones were, too, contributing to the criminal activities by youngsters at a time when the state was not performing its responsibility in grooming its future generation.
Ruling Awami League leaders said that this was nothing but social degradation and that the government was trying to stop it while opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and left political leaders alleged that the situation was a result of the country’s political stalemate and grabbing of the power by ‘undemocratic forces’.
They also said that unemployed youths and those dropped out of schools or colleges were mainly involved in the gangs and commit criminal activities, fall victim to drug abuse and drug trade under the influence of miscreants or big brothers in their areas who profited from using them.
All of them, however, stressed the need for a social awareness movement, giving the children adequate quality time by the family, teaching them to inculcate moral values, increasing physical and recreational activities, identifying and properly booking the gang members and, for the teenage ones, proper correctional activities for getting out of the situation.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan, addressing a conference on Saturday, urged the parents to bring their children back home before evening to prevent the recent trend of teenage gangs.
‘The teenagers involved in gangs will be punished under the Children Act 2013,’ he asserted.
According to police and locals, at least 50 gangs are operating in Dhaka and the gang members are involved in several types of crimes, ranging from mugging, stalking, hijacking, extortion, drug trade and abuse, and even killing in conflicts with rivals, mainly as part of their turf war.
A latest victim of the gang culture is Mohsin Ali, 14, a class IX student of capital’s Mohammadpur who was stabbed to death in the Chan Miah Housing Area of Mohammadpur on September 4 due to conflict between two teenage gang group. Three of his friends were injured in the incident.
Mohsin was a member of the ‘Film Jhir Jhir’ group while his rivals belonged to the gang named ‘Voyankar’, police officials said.
Gang culture in Dhaka first hit the headlines after Class VIII student Adnan Kabir, 14, was beaten to death in 2017 in capital’s Uttara.
The murder was an outcome of a conflict between two teenage gangs –‘Disco Boys’ and ‘Nine Star’, RAB and police officials said.
Outside Dhaka, criminal activities by teenage and youth gangs are also noticed at divisional, district and upazila levels including in Chattogram, Cumilla, Sylhet and Barguna.
In Barguna district town, a number of gang membersunder facebook group ‘Bond 007’ hacked Rifat Sharif, 25, to death in broad daylight before his wife Aysha Siddika MInni, according to police.
In one and a half months since July 15, elite force RAB has arrested at least 88 young gang members from different areas in Dhaka.
On Saturday evening personnel from Mohammadpur police station in Dhaka detained 22 suspected teenage gang members and Harirjheel police on Friday picked up 78 such members, of whom eight were sent to court after they were shown arrested under Dhaka Metropolitan Police act, police said.
The Rapid Action Battalion on July 15 detained 11 members of teen gang ‘New Nine Star’ from Turag area on the outskirts of the capital.
‘New Nine Star’ gang was formed by a member of ‘Nine Star’ group that was involved in a feud over the beating of a teenage boy named Adnan Kabir, 14, to death in 2017 in capital’s Uttara.
RAB officials said that they arrested 14 members of a teen gang named 'First Hitter Boss' or ‘FHB’, also from the city's Uttara and seized one firearm and two knives from their possessions on July 22, 24 members of teenage mugging gangs from different areas of Dhaka on August 10, 17 members of the gang ‘Star Bond Group’ in Rayerbagh area on August 24, 22 members of a teenage gang from Mugda area on August 27.
Mobile courts awarded these teens different jail terms varying from six months to one year and sent the under-aged ones to juvenile correction centres, RAB officials said.
Dhaka University psychology professor Md Kamal Uddin said that a gang is created when a set of perverse psychological factors became active among the teenagers and youths, especially unemployed ones and those having nothing to do, by getting financial or other ‘benefits’ from external sources or from their own family and they thought that the group’s strength was their own strength.
‘They become so perverse that they even get delighted when they beat someone,’ he said, adding that social, cultural and educational degradation as well as political stalemate were causes of the gang culture.
‘The children should be monitored by their parents, society and school authorities. They should not be allowed to go beyond control,’ he said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia, briefing reporters at the Hosni Dalan in Old Dhaka on Saturday, vowed to uproot the gang culture, including teenage gangs from Dhaka.
Dhaka University criminology teacher Khandaker Farzana Rahman pointed that unlimited use of internet and smartphones, porn addiction, decay of the family and social bonds, disobeying norms of society and schools, lack of physical activities, earning black money by parents, decay of social values and (good) traditional rituals were major reasons for development of gang culture.
‘In such a society, the school takes the responsibility by involving students in extra-curricular activities, creating social responsibilities, engaging them in sports and games. But, our schools are yet to reach that stage,’ she said.
She stressed the need for strengthening the social institutions and said that parents needed to know how to manage children, schools should take the responsibility to create values among them and there should be coordinated and united efforts among the relevant law enforcement agencies, local representatives and the community police to combat the gang culture.
Ain o Salish Kandra executive director Sheepa Hafiza said that the gang culture was nothing new, adding that she was ‘hopeful as the law enforcement agencies have become active over the issue’.
She, however, said that the government correction centres had no environment for correcting child offenders.
‘They are rather subjected to oppression there,’ she observed.
‘The correction centres should be such that teenage gang members there would get the environment to be humane and responsible to the society. Besides, they should be given access to proper education, sports and game and recreational activities so that they can come back to the society and rehabilitate themselves in the society,’ she said.
AL joint general secretary Abdur Rahman told New Age that the teenage gang culture was a result of social degradation and said that the government was trying to control it stressing the need for a greater social movement to free the society from the menace.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party senior joint secretary-general blamed the stagnant political situation and capturing of state power by undemocratic forces as the main reasons for the situation. ‘The society is badly affected and nothing is functioning properly due to this situation.’
Most often we see that the gangs are backed by local leaders and activists of the ruling party’s front organisations, he said, adding that lack of employment, social education and responsibility of the state are also responsible.
Communist Party of Bangladesh president Mujahidul Islam Selim, mentioning that the country’s politics was not controlled by the politicians but by the state bureaucracy and plunderers, said that the society was facing various menaces like gang culture and repression of girls and women.
He stressed the need to run the country according to the constitution, establish the rights of the people, allow the politicians to control politics for overcoming the situation.
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