The Financial Express

Deciphering the adolescent mind

Deciphering the adolescent mind

Yet another fallout of the long school closure came to the fore recently. This time it occurred in the Chittagong port city. A news item sent recently by the FE correspondent says a Rapid Action Battalion team there arrested a 'leader' operating as the chief of a gang comprising adolescents. Another report sent two days later says the Detective Branch of CMP has arrested another teenage 'gang leader', also a notorious criminal in the city. These gangs are composed of wayward adolescents, mainly vagabonds, drug addicts, and, lately, out-of-school students. The latter veritably bade farewell to studies as schools remain closed amid the months-long shutdown prompted by the ongoing pandemic. The teenagers are allegedly engaged in extortion, various types of violence, abduction, drug running, looting, and also murder. These adolescents also use firearms in their acts of assaulting people. Of late, they have emerged as a great threat to the peaceful atmosphere of many neighbourhoods in the Chattogram city.

The activities of teenage gangsters were once confined to capital Dhaka and its suburbs. Although initially they appeared alien to the city residents, they became known for their criminal acts. In Dhaka, a considerable number of these teenage gang-members came from well-to-do families in posh residential areas. Hoodwinking their parents, they would manage their family cars for committing the crimes. They would begin with eve-teasing to make way to reckless drunken driving, street brawls, sexual harassment and end up being drug addicts, eventually dropping out of school. The slums in the wildly growing Dhaka have long been identified as the breeding ground of adolescent hoodlums. As they come from the lowest rungs of society, mugging occupies a dominant place in their criminal activities. Due to the indefinite school closure, idling students from the lower-middle class have also been found joining the hardened teenage delinquents.

Exceptional scenarios have lately started emerging. After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the city, lots of shanty-dwelling youths and teenagers became engaged in looking for honest livelihoods. Their preference for earning 'easy money' by resorting to violence and mugging was then on the backburner.  In the meantime, with the corona-prompted shutdown in place, the number of pedestrians in the city continued to become thinner. Upon reaching their tether's end in terms of sufficient food, these slum dwellers are said to have started targeting the gullible people as their easy prey. With the shutdown lifted, the teenagers now find the time more favourable for reorganising to go back to their earlier trade.

Teenagers going astray are a universal problem. Besides poverty-stricken countries, mean streets in the cities of some highly developed ones remain filled with the pockets of these adolescent criminals. Dope-taking, drug peddling and turf wars are common scenarios in these notorious neighbourhoods. Compared to them, the spoilt adolescents in poorer countries are not beyond correctional measures and rehabilitation. Teenage violence and gangsters' attack on passersby in a group is a relatively new scourge in the cities of poorer countries. In Dhaka, Chattogram and other big cities, the menace was largely unknown. People would normally fall victim to mugging in certain areas or streets. They would set up traps at apparently safe points. Vulnerable people are ambushed all of a sudden. The style of carrying out these attacks in poorly lit areas has not changed since it commenced with the widening of the rich-poor gap in society. However, during the times of pandemic, famine, civil war and other types of abnormalities, both burglaries and mass-level plundering emerge as common happenings. During these fraught times, the fear of being robbed, at times leading to terrible deaths, grips communities of all types. To explain the phenomenon basing on reason and socio-economic factors, these aberrant behaviours become a reality.

As has always been seen, incidence of these types of violent acts doesn't remain limited to any specific period. Lots of riotous events also take place during the times of peace. Nor is the age or class of the persons behind these crimes cannot be defined specifically. Moreover, nobody knows when a teenager will be sucked into the infernal world of crimes. Ranging from an abrupt fall into the abyss of morally degrading acts to the genetic dictates leading one to brazen criminality --- all these happenings remain beyond predictability. Notwithstanding the distressing truth, efforts taken by social and familial institutions, and also by an individual, can make a remarkable dent in the dominant presence of the agents of decay and rot. In the present context, it can be started with students staying far from school.

The nation is passing through the ordeal of a global pandemic. The period at the moment marks the tentative restart of all basic activities related to survival. Now that the educational institutions are still under an indefinite shutdown order, teenagers are singled out as being one of the institution-based groups of sufferers. Due to the crammed sitting arrangements at most of these schools, especially in cities, the health authorities have yet to muster the courage to reopen them. That will amount to exposing thousands of students to the ever-mutating virus of the Covid-19 contagion. Apparently, they are not going to take the great risk.

Due to their being at the threshold of youth yet socially and biologically placed in the segment of boyhood or girlhood, the teenagers seem to be in the most vulnerable state. That despair and deprivations will take over the adolescents, especially in a dreadful time, is implied. The pressure of an unexplainable void may also drive them into the path of violence.


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