Bail is granted easily because of legal constraints and in the absence of a correction centre
Crime has usually been committed by reckless, unethical and immoral people throughout history. Their victims, even if faced with a compromised judicial system, could at least send a warning to them.
However, as modernisation is taking root arbitrarily in society, teenagers are increasingly becoming outlaws, making criminal trials both confusing and challenging.
There has been a rise in juvenile crimes in both urban and rural areas in Bangladesh, and Brahmanbaria is no exception as it has become a breeding ground for teenage criminals.
In Brahmanbaria, legal remedies for crime are becoming dubious. Even after arrest, criminals quickly return to their criminal lives as a result of legal loopholes and lack of proper correction centres. Such centres are required to hold them until they learn to repent.
As per the legal framework in Bangladesh, teenage criminals are mostly sent to correction centres. They are generally not punished for their crimes.
This was an accepted norm in the past, but now as juvenile crimes are becoming more severe and frequent, things have become challenging. Many of these criminals easily secure bail since Brahmanbaria has no correction centre. The police have become helpless in this backdrop.
Among the most recent offenders, Md Imon, 15, allegedly abducted a 12-year old girl from Ashuganj in the district on August 21, 2019 and raped her. Police arrested him under a case filed by her mother three days later, and the court sent him to the Child Development Centre in Gazipur.
The officer-in-charge of Ashuganj police station, Jabed Mahmud, confirmed that there was evidence of Imon committing the rape. Imon had a relationship with the minor girl, he added. However, Imon's family denies that Imon committed rape.
The mother of the victim said the girl had to be taken out of school when she was in class five because of financial constraints. She then took a job at a leather factory.
Imon used to come to my house to drink water while selling bananas in a nearby haat. Imon's family even exerted pressure on me, and offered to pay me to withdraw the case", she claimed.
Civil society thinks that inadequate supervision by families is the major reason for the surge in juvenile outlaws. Families have to instill moral values and ideals in teenagers through practice.
Imon's elder brother Riton said Imon was a bit of a rascal since childhood, but he never had any criminal tendencies. He was temporarily pulled out of school 18 months ago when he was in class seven because of his wayward nature.
Imon's neighbour, preferring anonymity, said Imon hung around throughout the day with some unknown youths, and his parents paid no heed to his activities. Imon's father is a banana vendor and brother an auto-rickshaw driver, the neighbor added.
Like Imon, teenage criminals in Brahmanbaria mostly come from middle-income or poor families. They carry out muggings, robbery, eve-teasing, fights over territorial dominance and other types of crime.
Furthermore, these teenagers are not easily suspected and thus drug peddlers use them to carry narcotics.
Seeing hard cash, greedy teenagers also support the business eagerly. Some of them later become active members of drug rackets.
Brahmanbaria police say that last year 68 teenagers were brought to court in 55 cases. Court sent most of them to Gazipur's Children Development Centre while the rest are out on bail.
More than 50 other juvenile delinquents were handed over to their families based on the scale and nature of their crimes, police claimed.
Sometimes the police decide to send them to the State Orphanage in Brahmanbaria town. But the orphanage does not want to accommodate them fearing they might pollute the environment for other destitute children under its care.
Finding no other alternative the police only give them a warning and releases them, knowing that they will most probably resume their anti-social activities soon.
Many of these teenagers commit crimes under the guise of political organisations. Sujan Dutta, senior vice-president of Chhatra League in Brahmanbaria admitted this.
However, he blamed the legal system for preventing action being taken against juveniles who commit crime. In this case, the government has to take responsibility to improve the situation, he added.
Intellectuals, however, hold a different opinion. Pijush Kanti Acharya, president of the Brahmanbaria Nagorik Forum, said psychological issues are at play behind juvenile delinquency. As the teenage criminals are mostly school going children, psychiatrists need to be placed in every school.
Punishment is not a remedy for such crimes. On the contrary, care centres need to be set-up to provide opportunities to these juveniles to refine their character and develop them for society and the country, Pijush added.
Taslima Sultana Khanam Nishat, assistant public prosecutor of the Additional District and Sessions Judge Court 1 in Brahmanbaria, claimed that juvenile criminals are granted bail easily because there is no correction centre in Brahmanbaria to keep them for improvement or for preventing further offences.
Professor Bande Ali, chairman of the Department of Sociology at Brahmanbaria Government College, said we must avoid performing certain acts before our children because these can create a negative mentality in them.
They have to be brought back to the right path through moral practices, and their families must play the central role in this, he said.
Muhammad Alamgir Hossain, additional superintendent (administration and crime) of Brahmanbaria police said it is difficult to contain juvenile delinquency through legal action.
First, one has to find the cause for such crimes, which can include negligence by families, poor socio-economic status and bad influencers among others. Parents and everyone concerned with the teenager have to contribute to stop such criminal offences, the police officer commented.