Lately, teen gangs (locally known as “Kishore gangs”) has been plaguing Bangladesh. Members of teen gangs are reported to sport varied haircuts in different colours, ripped jeans and figaro jewelry. They are witnessed riding bikes with loud sounds, smoking in public, and using filthy language. Usually, gangs have distinct names and enticing logos.
According to Dr. Zia Rahman, a professor at University of Dhaka, Bangladesh is in the middle of a dramatic social shift due to technological advancement and mordernisation. This is altering the characteristics of criminality and deviant conduct which gives rise to gang culture especially among urban adolescents. Numerous gangs including 'Disco Boyz', 'Nine Star', 'Love Lane', and 'Bangla Group’ have been involved in rowdyism, harassments, abuse, violent killings and more. It is a paradigm shift from juvenile delinquency to juvenile gang culture. Adolescents are actively taking part in multifarious organised crimes.
Factors behind Rising of Teen Gang Culture
Several social, economic, political aspects are responsible for increasing teen gang culture in Bangladesh. Collapsing of family and social relationships, the earning of black money by parents, disobedience of societal norms and morals, unregulated usage of smartphones and internet, addiction to pornography- are all claimed to be major factors in the growth of teen gangs in Bangladesh. Lack of parental supervision, maltreatment of child, toxic parenting, severe punishments, and conflicts or separations or presence of offenders in the family may invoke criminality. Teenagers raised by a single parent are more likely to begin offending than kids raised by two biological parents. But, if the effects of such phenomena are handled gently, it can easily be overcome. Moral deterioration converts juveniles into hazardous members of society, who form or join gangs. The gangs become the pawns of local and national level corrupted politicians. The gangs are used to retain their dominance in their districts or constituencies, chiefly during elections.
Needless to say that disadvantaged teenagers make up a significant portion of these juvenile gangs. As per the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the number of children between the ages of 5 to 18 years is 40 million. Of them, 13 million children are involved in hazardous work, mostly with criminal connections. According to Home Ministry, in 2016, 44% of street children were involved in drug trafficking, 35% in picketing, 12% in kidnappings, 11% in human trafficking, and 21% in other crimes. Vulnerable minors are also recruited to work with “Mastaan” gangs for drug peddling, extortions, political violence, land grabbing, assassinations, and so on. Maastans share their ill acquired wealth with corrupted politicians to resume their intimidation, brutality, and coercion. These in turn is utilised by political parties for gaining votes and back up. School or college dropouts and unemployed adolescents tend more to join gangs and engage in illegal activities.
Khandaker Farzana Rahman, a criminology faculty member at Dhaka University, stated that education system should integrate students in extra-curricular and recreational activities that pave the way for fulfillment of positive social obligations. Schools have not been successful in doing so. Foreign films and series activate anti-social behaviour. Hostility is invoked by violent video games. The toxic influence of mass media is reflected by teens in Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok, Youtube and other platforms, which are used for criminal activities. Lack of healthy recreation is known to instigate criminality. In Dhaka city, there is barely any field, playgrounds or recreation zone for children. This in addition to poverty which disallows them to fulfill basic needs makes minors go astray. On the other hand, youngsters exposed to immense wealth in unregulated manner also become delinquents.
How to Stop Teen Gang
Firstly, families should have restored to their natural main role (Extended Family) by learning all individual, societal, and national values and conventions that would aid in the management of youth criminality in society. Secondly, parents should be watchful of their children’s social circle and not let them have ties with criminals. Thirdly, education systems are to act as important instruments in preventing criminal conduct and illegal ideas among juveniles in the long run. Fourthly, controlling drug addiction and drug trafficking is the only way to eradicate adolescent criminality from the country. Fifthly, to combat drug misuse and trafficking, the authorities must strictly enforce current laws and raise public awareness. In this regard, NGOs, print and digital media, as well as the state may play an important role. Finally, it is to be understood that many teens fall into the trap of criminalities due to poverty. The basic needs of juveniles including education and recreation is to be ensured. Family alone cannot guarantee the safety of their children if the state is entirely negligent. For this, changes are to be brought in politics and administration.
The writers are an Assistant Professor and an MSS student respectively at the Department of Sociology, Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP)