One of the recent alarming tendencies in society that threaten social structure is youth gang-culture. Merriam-Webster and Cambridge dictionary’s definitions argue that a gang encompasses a group of people mostly young-men united customarily for spending time together, behaving badly and involving in wrongdoing. ‘Gangsterism’ originates in weak law-and-order settings (Moor, 1967), and develops as juvenile sub-culture of urbanisation.
Gangs usually include peers of the same areas, are self-formed (Miller, 1992); and grow by youngsters’ lollygagging and moseying on into places with no specific purposes just bullying inhabitants for jokes and laughs, which steadily become violent for interpersonal rows on family, friends, and romantic affairs within and between groups, rather territorial hostility (Hallsworth, 2013). Gangs comprised of few to 10,000 gangsters to control areas, and mechanisms to receive benefits unlawfully. The organisation of gangs stays comparable to corporate hierarchy with recognisable leaderships.However, Hallsworth argues- leadership can be fluid, volatile, and amorphous; and serious criminal initiatives are rarely coordinated, rather committed individually or in small groups. Gangsters of hierarchical five sets- at-risk, associates, members, hardcore members, and leaders (O’Deane, 2012) join gang typically two ways- 1) jumping in as initiation, and 2) proving loyalty and competence by committing delinquencies. Characteristics- capacity and willingness to be violent, criminal and arrest record, and extent of financial, mental, logistic contribution to gangs are seminal dynamics, which maintain the hierarchy. Gang-members develop distinctive identities with clothes, hairstyles, tattoos, slogans, signs, etc. In gangs, members hire theft, kidnapping, extortion, vandalism, drug-dealing, rape, murder, etc. for support, belongingness, power, money, societies’ recognition and respect. Non-member women of four sets- girlfriends, hood rats (promiscuous and addicted), good-girls (childhood friends), and relatives (sisters) may be attached in gangs. Internet has become general medium of communication for open and secret chats, sharing thoughts and chivalries.
Bangladeshi youth gang-culture can be deciphered well through analysing cases of gang-violence. One of the cases, which rattled the country was the slaying of Rifat publicly (in which among 24 suspects 14 are youths) facing his wife Minni. A gang, ‘Bond-007,’ named after a Facebook messenger group of 300 plus members of five categories from youth at risk to gang leaders, replaced by ‘Team-61,’ was responsible. Despite being large group, most crimes- drug dealings, extortions, hijacking, eve-teasing, etc. were done individually or in small groups. Gang leadership stood hierarchical as Nayan was in lead and Rifat Faraji was second-in-command. It gained strength from linkages with corrupt local political influential and law-enforcers and group-solidarity. Murdered Rifat was also a drug-dealing member of this gang and associate of Nayan.
The incident emanated from rows within gang stemmed from personal disputes of drug dealing, and romantic affairs. Power, protection, attacking collectively, money-making, belongingness, seeking respect, recognition and influential position were principal factors to run the gang. Nayan, a good result-bearer, upstretched to gang leadership for family dysfunction- untimely demise of his father; rejection by his girl, and addiction. The process intensified with pilfering, snatching, drug dealing, linking with and shelter of so-called big-brothers, and gang building. He wore tattoo and bungle and included word ‘Bond’ with his name, etc. He remained cognisant about girls and sponsored a female-gang, (mostly addicted) named ‘Honey Bond’ for selling drug to and extortion from women. There may have been other non-member women of male gang remaining engaged in a relationship which falls in-between girlfriend and hoodrats.
The analysis of other cases reveal causes of gangs’ violent activities, which took lives of youths named in parenthesis- territorial rivalry (dominant cause) [Adnan (15) of Uttara, Dhaka, Abdullah khan (13) and Ferdous (20) of Jashore, Miron (14) and Adil (11) of Cumilla], love affairs [Imroz (32) and Sunny (28) of Jahsore, Hridoy (15) of Barishal], factionalism and domination in gang [Aziz (18) Dhaka], intolerance [Nurul Islam (15), and Shuvo (16) of Gazipur], politics [Isfar (15) of Chaottogram], kidnap and ransom [Rupok (16) of Kishoreganj]; etc. However, gangs can engage in the offence without particular reasons. Nilay, a gang leader of about 100 peers from Kishoreganj, expressed they became elated and inspired seeing people terrified and went to commit coldblooded violence taking drugs without any reason.
The gangsters, at the onset, generally are school and college friends of urban areas, who move, eat, travel, gossip and smoke together, and gradually engage in partying, fast bike riding (frightening inhabitants) with sharp-horn, eve-teasing (being Romeo), addiction, etc. They employ force, network with big-brothers (mutual), and become violent for controlling playground, motorcycle race, social resources, and supremacy. Gang-members (age of 12-25, from all strata of society- low, medium and high) wear a same coloured dress (blue T-shirt of Uttara Disco-Boys); use online groups, and apps; employ particular signs/codes for communication; etc. They name their groups (of 5-1,000 plus members) stylistically absorbing words from videogames, horror-films, or serials; for instance- Disco-Boys, Nine-Star-Boys, Big-Boss, Danger-Boys, and Dark-Shadow (Dhaka); Rex, and Eagle (Cumilla); Bond-007, Honey-Bond (for female), Larelappa, Team-61 (Barguna), etc.
Pull factors- heroism, power hunger, money, coverage, adolescence, perverted enjoyment, impunity, presence of corrupt officials, the effect of horror-movie, videogames, and western culture, etc. bring youths to gangs. Poor familial accountably, busyness of guardians, inaction of social governance and dignitaries, decayed control of educational institutions, parochial grassroots politics, demotivation of big-brothers, social disorganisation, disintegration of societal institutions, unrestricted access to internet, lack of healthy cultural activities and sports, result-oriented education, access to drugs, history of humiliation, unemployment, low morality, easy access to money, etc. are the principals push factors.Gang-culture can be stopped and it’s a must. Here, juvenile delinquents are sent to three rehabilitation centres- for male (2) and female (1) to bring them back to the mainstream. However, it does not seem enough to confirm their efficacious homecoming, discontinuation of gangsterism, and effective retribution. Different steps can be taken in shifting Bangladeshi ambience- mobilizing parents, family and community for accountability; building and empowering societal institutions to watch over; enhancing control of educational institutions, representatives and local-administrators; ensuring value-based and career education, quality pastime, and psychological backstopping; engaging youths in healthy competitions of sports and socio-cultural activities; blocking coaching centres, deserted spaces and drug dealings; and employing ex-gangsters in mentoring; etc.
In addition to the above, the government should put their best effort to make children morally strong at an early age. For doing so, the curriculum needs to be changed along with appointment of qualified and morally strong teachers at the primary level. If we could educate the students at the primary level, they would grow up as responsible citizens who would not join gangs. It is not the responsibility of the government alone. Rather, there is an urgency to start the process of protestation from the societal level. If we could raise our voice against those gangs instead of becoming scared, they would back step. Thus, a concerted effort is necessary to come out from such a trauma that is impacting our social and individual life regularly.
The authors have acknowledged all sources of information.
The writers are respectively an Assistant Professor of the Department of Political Science, Chowmuhani Government S. A. College, Noakhali and a Professor of the Department of Public Administration and an Additional Director of the
Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) at the University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh.