AN ALARMING increase in youth violence has become a public concern in recent times. A series of reported juvenile violence brought the issue to public attention. Official sources say that at least 50 gangs — involved in crimes such as mugging, extortion, drug trade and even killing as part of turf war — prowl the capital city. The latest such violence was the death of a college student on August 28, when a teen gang at Uttarkhan killed the victim for protesting against wrongdoings. This area in the capital has seen a growth of teen violence over some years. In January 2017, a 14-year-old was murdered over an enmity between two such gangs at Uttara. The Rajshahi Metropolitan Police has detained nearly 400 teens for their alleged involvement in crimes. The teen gangs are also involved in sexual violence. On October 6, the local police at Ashulia arrested four of a gang after they had posted on social media a video of a rape they committed. The situation at hand appears to be a sign of failure of the current social and educational infrastructure.
Experts have identified an inadequate emphasis on the ethical grooming of students and lack of space for cultural growth of young minds as the main contributing factor to increasing youth violence. Especially in urban areas, playgrounds and open spaces are rapidly disappearing. The government allocation for youth development and cultural institutions in district towns is gradually declining. In addition, sociologists have also raised concern about the political backing and the use of such gangs in drug trade and supremacy. The teen gang involved in the murder of a young man in Barguna that shocked the nation in June 2019 was allegedly backed by local political leaders. The police, however, assured that they are taking instant action against such gangs. While it is assuring that the police are equally concerned about the rising youth violence, detention and arrest alone cannot contain the problem. The current state of juvenile justice system, especially in correctional facilities, is unequipped to serve its purpose. The death of three teenage boys after sustaining critical injury in a clash at a juvenile correctional facility in Jashore tends to point to this.
The government must, therefore, prioritise youth development in its policy and budgetary consideration. In so doing, it must review the existing curriculum to include ethics and social responsibility. Local government authorities across the country should reclaim public spaces and playgrounds and open them for recreational activities. The ministries of cultural affairs, sports and education must have policies and collaborative implementation plans for a positive cultural and social growth of the youth. In this regard, families and society at large should also play their role. All efforts would, however, go in vein unless the political party in power abandons its policy of using the youth as muscle power and continue to cultivate a political culture that normalises violence.
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