are everywhere yet invisible. Invisible, because we
have no time to see them. They are bright, young,
energetic but little to look forward to. They are
in their teens and twenties, an ambiguous stage in
which they must grow up all too quickly and become
men. Trapped in the whirlpool of poverty, with hardly
any opportunities to grow and develop and with no
role models to look up to, no mentors to guide them,
these young men are struggling to keep their heads
above water. Many times they are lured into the world
of crime and drugs, a hell from which few can escape.
Some, in spite of the unsavoury temptations, manage
to keep away, earn their own keep and even dare to
have dreams of their own.
uninspiring education system will ensure more school
drop outs in the future.
for how long? In the absence of any concrete policy
to provide educational and employment opportunities,
in the wake of increasing materialism of the rich
and class hatred among the deprived, in the reality
of institutionalised crime, can these young souls
be saved? SWM explores the frustrations of our less
privileged youth, their aspirations in life and the
social and psychological reasons behind the increasing
corruption of our young men.
of the most disturbing trends in our society is that
a large number of heinous crimes are committed by
young men in their late teens or early twenties. Thirteen
year old Fahima was kidnapped and raped by a young
man called Sumon helped by his cronies. Three of them
are in their early twenties. A few months ago a teenager
with his friend killed a school teacher for failing
him. Shihab and Bappi, both children faced violent
and grisly deaths at the hands of men in their twenties.
The cases are endless _ young men engaged in the most
vicious acts of violence with no compunction for their
what triggers criminal behaviour in young men? Professor
Hedayet Islam, Founder Director of the National Institute
of Mental Health in Shere Bangla Nagar and a professor
of psychiatry, says that crime is a complex phenomenon
and can be caused by a myriad of factors. In most
cases, Islam explains, the person is suffering from
a personality disorder. In other words he cannot adjust
to normal settings, to his family or society in general
or conform to social norms. This results in an abnormal
institutionalising crime, political parties have encouraged
young people to resort to violence.
are various types of abnormal personalities. The 'anti-social'
person says Islam, is someone who is usually aggressive
and turns to violence at the slightest provocation.
He wants to achieve everything through force. “
These individuals cannot conform to moral or ethical
values set by family, society or state laws”. The
'passive depressive' types are those who fall victim
to gang behaviour. They are usually passive followers
rather than the aggressors and follow the rules of
others. They do not have their own views and easily
get involved in crimes instigated by the 'gang'. Then
there is the 'dominant borderline' personality disorder
adds Islam who is also the founder- director of the
Institute of Community Mental Health. These individuals
may seem normal outwardly but they have an excessive
urge to dominate others. “They maybe highly intelligent
and are often perfectionists. They tend to show off
their apparent superiority and want to play the leading
role. People with such personality may become involved
in criminal behaviour."
pornography and vulgar films are often blamed for
rise in sex crimes, Islam says that such factors only
instigate individuals who have abnormal sexual tendencies.
Added to that, the fact that sex crimes often go unpunished
only encourages such individuals to commit such crimes.
Usually, says Islam, normal individuals do not turn
to violence from such exposure.
rise in acid violence by young men too, can be attributed
to the failure of law enforcers to catch the culprits
and punish them.
who commit cold- blooded murder, explains Islam, are
violent people who have no care for values, the legal
system and feel no remorse for the acts they commit.
He refers to the television interviews of several
murderers who have given unemotional accounts of their
crime with the slightest sign of repentance.
Islam insists that while such psychological anomalies
contribute to criminal behaviour the external environment
the person is exposed to is just as important.. “In
cases where the law enforcement is lax and the environment
is not conducive to the normal growth of an individual,
where he can get away with crime or where crime is
the easy way of earning a huge amount of money, status
or political power, these individuals will be encouraged
to follow this pattern of behaviour.”
factors are also to blame says Islam. Many young men
in our society come from broken homes, from dysfunctional
families or have grown up without the love and affection
that every individual needs for normal development.
If the parents or guardians do not teach their young
ones about social and moral values, if a young person
gets away with crime without being punished by the
family, society or by the law of the land, it will
only encourage him to continue with such crime, especially
since it brings in rewards that are extremely attractive
to young people.
Prothom Alo news item on June 15 reports the case
of a couple in Gaibanda being mutilated by an acid
attack by his step-brother over a property dispute.
The attacker took the help of his sons to pour acid
on the couple which left them critically injured and
scarred for life. In a society where a parent actually
encourages his children to commit such a gruesome
crime, how can they distinguish between right and
state has not provided enough opportunities of empowerment
for young people, resulting in a growing number of
addiction among young people has phenomenally increased
largely due to the proliferation of drugs into the
country. While rich addicts can pay for their drugs
with their pocket money or a tantrum, poorer addicts
have to resort to extortion or even worse, to get
their fix. Many young boys are drug peddlers who soon
get addicted and get into crime to sustain their habit.
Here again the law enforcement agencies have failed
miserably to catch and punish organised drug rings
which allegedly enjoy the patronage of highly placed
individuals in society.
overriding all determinants are the biggest anomalies
in our society that accounts for the growing moral
degradation of our youth. The increasing gulf between
the rich and poor, the criminalisation of politics
and ineffectual law enforcement coupled with the corruption
of law enforcing bodies give strange and unsavoury
messages to our youth. Organised crimes such as extortion,
terrorism, murder, fraud etc are given tacit approval
by political parties since many of their bigwigs are
involved. Youth wings of political parties have introduced
the cadre culture which hand picks young men and give
them arms to fight political battles which translates
into grabbing power and money through violence. For
young, unemployed men from poor backgrounds who have
no prospects of a better economic existence joining
a political party or a crime ring, where the material
benefits far outweigh the stakes, is the easiest solution.
For many young men, crime is a glamorous thing and
being morally upright is a weakness.
people need more outlets to express their thoughts
and opportunities to grow into well-adjusted, productive
gaping divide between the rich and poor may also be
a contributing factor to crime among youth. The rich
in our society are very indifferent towards the underprivileged.
They unashamedly display their wealth yet do little
or nothing to improve the lives of the less fortunate.
In an interview in Prothom Alo's weekly supplement
'Chutir Din' (July 19) a young boy from Karwan Bazar
who use to earn his living as a petty thief ,expresses
his feelings towards the rich. Answering to the question
of what he would do if he won the lottery he says:
“ I would buy a poisonous dog and a car… With the
dog I would catch people. Now you will see.”
what will you gain from the dog biting people asks
the interviewer. “ My pleasure. Every rich person
has a fat dog. It eats what people eat, sleeps with
people, eats with them…” Responding to another question
on why he would not go to school given a chance, he
says: “Those who are educated are especially bad.
I hate them. I'm going to blow them up…”
There are Voices of Hope…
Lake, on a Friday afternoon is a pleasurable spot
to visit. On this hot humid, summer day, we welcome
the soothing breeze and the canopy of shade from the
abundant greenery. Among the obvious scenes of romance,
we are looking for young boys and men to interview.
A wild bunch of boys from ten to fourteen squeal in
delight as they jump from a bunyan tree and dive straight
into the water. They swim a little, get back on the
tree and jump again and again obviously having a whale
of a time. We tear our eyes away from this happy scene
and approach a group of young men obviously on an
outing at the park.
hardship is a reality for Dulal (far right) and his
friends yet they still manage to think positively
and dream about a better life.
Kawser is 18 and works as a telephone operator in
an NGO. He wanted to complete his education but bad
results in the HSC and a rejection from the Board
to sit for a second time, dashed his hopes. “I was
always a bad student but our teachers were no good
either. At school our teacher would say 'if you come
for coaching then you will pass otherwise you will
fail'. I went for his coaching but he failed me. When
I challenged him I got expelled for insulting a teacher.”
At one point Kawser got involved in politics. The
ward commissioner of his locality promised him good
'increments' if he could bring three or four people
to political processions and meetings. “We use to
get Tk. 100 per head for three hours of chanting slogans
etc.” But later Kawser realised that this was not
a good choice and he came out of the party. As for
his aspirations for the future: “Dal bhat kheye, bachte
parle bachi” (to survive eating dal bhat).
his friend has more definite ambitions. He has just
taken his HSC and wishes to join the army “to be a
proud soldier." He has very clear ideas about
the problems of youth today. “If the government is
not on the right track what are we to do?” “We have
seen three consecutive governments and they all turn
out to be the same. In the next election we will be
eligible to vote. But who do we vote for. The only
thing we can do is go into the booth, close our eyes
and randomly put our seal.” When asked if he had a
role model among the politicians he laughs and says:
There are no good leaders because even if one is good
he has to be bad because of others around him. Politics
is just a business.”
Kamal Hossain, another friend, who has his own little
electric shop, has been working since he was eight.
He is the only bread winner of his family and has
little interest for politics. “I don't like politics.
If you support a party, the other party becomes your
Nurul Alam, the shy one of the group works at a sari
shop in Gulistan. He could not continue his education
after class six after his father died and was forced
to make a living. His role model is his older brother
who works in a sari shop in Islampur. “After my father
died, he has taken care of me. He is very honest and
always tells me when I do something wrong.”
are his chances of being unaffected by a corrupted
year old Md. Amir Hossain is in his second year of
HSC at Bangla College. He has dreams of completing
his Honours and Masters in English. “ If I do bad
I will go abroad.” This means going to Kuwait to an
uncertain future that may or may not have a happy
I could work and study that would be good,” says Amir
who has to tutor three students to help out in the
near the bank of the lake are two young men, one a
muri walla and the other his friend. Md.
Abdur Rahman Saimon, a 20 year old unemployed youth
from Faridpur says he met his muri walla friend Md.
Al Amin when Saimon had run away from home to Dhaka
ending up as a security guard at the Dhanmondi lake.
“But it was really difficult, I was not able to eat
properly or have a decent place to sleep and so I
went back home.” Saimon has a lost look on his face
as he talks about his life. He tells us that he stopped
going to school after class seven because he was mentally
upset. “My parents were always fighting and then my
mother left to live with her brothers. It was very
painful. I was never close to my father.”
old Saiman stopped going to school after his parents
home Saimon is a fisherman and one day he wishes to
have his own fisheries business.
views on life are not surprisingly cynical. When asked
why young men of his age resort to crime he retorts:
“What do you expect--political parties have always
been giving arms to young people. Young men are unemployed,
frustrated, they go through a lot of mental tension.
Then if they fall into bad company they do bad things.”
he adds "have been brought to this country to
destroy young people. Heroin is 'dog poison'. I have
seen addicts vomiting like dogs when they take too
year old Al Amin laughs in embarrassment at his friend's
words. He is an earnest young man whose sole purpose
in life seems to be to support his family back home.
Before Al Amin worked for 12 hours a day as a gardener
and security guard at Dhanmondi Lake. But he was not
paid properly so he quit and started selling jhal
muri, living in a mess in Rayer Bazar shared
with four other jhal muri wallas.
says Al Amin, he sees young men taking heroin in the
evening and extorting money from passers-by. “
there will be a girl sitting by herself planted by
a gang. The minute someone comes to talk to her, they
swoop on him, beat him up falsely accusing him of
trying to assault the girl and then they take everything
from the victim.”
Amin's own life is far less eventful. “I like to keep
to myself. I work, sleep and don't talk to people
much. If I can save money I will go abroad so I can
send enough money to my parents, brother and sisters.
You see I'm the eldest.”
up the lake grounds we meet Dulal and his friends--all
around 18 or 19, most of them working as carpenters
at furniture shops. Dulal says he couldn't continue
studies after class three as he came from a poor family.
He is learning carpentry and one day hopes to have
his own shop.
who is in his first year BCOM at a college in Madaripur
is here on a visit. He is planning to go to Switzerland
to work as a driver.
asked why young men become involved in crime Sabbir
says, “ Because they are poor. Everyone wants a good
life but they don't have money. So some people think
this is the only way to have a good life.”
gives strange messages to the young and impressionable.
is a struggle for young men like Dulal and his friends
but somehow they manage to find ways to enjoy it.
Thanks to the generosity of the staff at Abahani Club,
they have the opportunity to play football or cricket
at the Abahani Field from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. after which
they go to work. On weekends they watch Bangla movies
in the cinema hall or roam around the lake and chat
with each other.
young men from lower middle class or poor backgrounds
are as lucky as Dulal and his friends to have an open
field to play in or a park to hang out at. Most neighbourhoods
are congested with over construction and offer no
outlets for the young and restless.
are again distracted by the group of tokais expertly
diving into the lake, dodging the woman security guard
who waits menacingly with a stick. Swimming is forbidden
in the lake she grumbles after giving a few whips
to the youngest and most helpless one.
a gangly, slightly cocky 14 year old, is the oldest
and the gang leader of the younger ones. He sells
Kadam flowers to school children in Kathalbagan. The
group often come to the lake to swim and play. “We
also watch cartoons, Meena is my favourite,” says
Khokon who does not need much provocation to use swear
words at his friends. Khokon says he has no dreams,
desires or plans for the future. “Whatever fate holds
for me will be it. Perhaps I will be a pichchi (errand
boy) at New Market.”
asked whether they feel angry when they see rich boys
zooming around in their fancy cars, Khokon says “Why
should we? Allah gave them wealth and not us.”
Allah wills it, we may also be rich”, pipes in 10
year old Shafiqul Islam.
are no role models among politicians.'
reality of their situation is far less optimistic.
The number of unemployed, uneducated and uncared for
youth is on the rise. How many of them will be able
to resist the temptation to engage in crime when that
seems the only option left to survive? With no security
in life, physical or financial, they are being pushed
to the wall. Those at the helm of the power structure
are not providing them with the role models they so
badly need. The lessons that society is teaching them
are that honesty does not pay while deviousness and
violence brings material gains. It is up to us to
set the example of what it means to be a morally upright
citizen. Society must give stern messages in the form
of exemplary punishment to perpetrators of crime to
show that such acts come with a heavy price. Young
people need opportunities from the state and society
to be educated, to get jobs and to have wholesome
avenues of entertainment. We can no longer indulge
in our continuous neglect of our youth. They are a
powerful force that needs to be channelled in the
right direction. After all, it is they who will ultimately
determine the future of our nation.