Wealthy and wayward

Sadiqur Rahman looks into the background of young perpetrators of three recent and separate incidents of alleged murder and assault in the city

isu01The first ever Bengali novel published in a colloquial form in the Bengali language was ‘Alaler Gharer Dulal’ (The Pampered Son of a Front-rank Family) that was written by Peary Chand Mitra in 1857. A line from the book can be translated loosely into the following: ‘devastation is must if good sense does not take shape during the early years [of a man] ……. if imprudence takes over a man during his childhood, it will gradually turn dangerous with growth.’
Mitra in the novel showed how an over-indulged child Matilal of Baburam, a Bengali business elite with no education, became spoilt and later became an outlaw who is eventually hated by all. Baburam, using influence and money, saved his son Matilal from certain conviction when the rich kid was being tried for violating the law. In return, Baburam was not as fortunate to be visited by his son at his deathbed.
The author’s story was a warning to people during the era about the dreadful results of ‘Babugiri’ culture (blindly following British/foreign norms). Alas, the prose is still applicable in modern day Bangladesh where similarly spoilt children are becoming involved in heinous crimes leading to murders and deaths in the country.
A testament to this is the case of Ariful Islam Sohel, whose father Nuru Boyati was an influential politician and local government representative of Naria under Shariatpur district. After Nuru’s death, Sohel occupied all of his father’s properties including the Ghoroa Hotel and Restaurant in Motijheel, Dhaka. The restaurant was hospitable to customers, but it was just the opposite to its staff, most of whom were often tortured and scared for their lives due to the actions of the ill-tempered and influential owner.
On October 28, Sohel allegedly shot dead Riyad (16), one of his restaurant staff, who had been asking for a hike in his wage. After the killing, Sohel sent the dead body and two of his staff to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) and tried to colour Riyad as a victim of mugging. Later, media reports on the incident and police investigation following a close-circuit-camera footage found the actual culprit. Sohel has been absconding since then.
According to acquaintances, Sohel has been engaged in criminal activities since his childhood but no one dared to challenge him ever as they feared his influential father. One of Sohel’s friends informs New Age Xtra, ‘Sohel used to be intoxicated all the time. He was highly ambitious. He always dreamt of becoming a minister of this country. Hence, he invested money and patronised local political cadres in Naria and Motijheel.’ According to Ghoroa staff members, Sohel also kept close ties with the police.
Another recent incident involved Al Amin Sohan alias Sohan Shahriar and a number of his teenage friends who loved to scare pedestrians and locals at the Motijheel AGB colony area of the city as they raced their bikes during the evening hours. According to locals, the goons stalked girls in front of their parents, snatched bags or insulted senior pedestrians if they came in their way.
On October 20, when Runa Akhter, a government official and mother of 22-month-old girl Labiba, attempted to cross a road near the colony area, a gang of four bikers including Sohan, slammed and dragged the woman on the road by her scarf. Finally they ran over her.
Runa was first rushed to a nearby hospital and then shifted to the DMCH where the doctors declared her dead.
Initially after the occurrence, locals and police caught Sohan red-handed. His other three companions are still at large. Sohan’s father Shah Alam, tried to save his son, by telling the media, ‘My child rides a motor bike. He is still under 18 and I do not know whether his bike knocked down the woman or something else has happened.’
A few days before this tragic incident, Fareez Rahman (16) had shown the entire nation how some people from the elite classes can get away with quite a lot. It has been learnt from friends of Fareez that he was once sent abroad for studies as his parents had failed to raise him in the country. After some months, Fareez was sent back home for unruly activities without completing his studies.
Drinking alcohol while racing his car on the streets of Dhaka, became Fareez’s favourite form of entertainment. On October 12, the underage driver, nephew of a former lawmaker and business partner of ruling party stronghold, rammed two rickshaws with his sports utility vehicle at Gulshan area while racing with another car, leaving four people injured.
Initially, after being informed about Fareez’s family links, police allegedly ensured his safe return home rather than to arrest him. According to news reports, families of the injured in the road accident were threatened from taking legal action against Fareez.
The Gulshan Police station was forced to file a case accusing Fareez for the incident on October 29, after 12 days of the incident, following a High Court order. However, the accused has not been arrested till date.

The incidents have clarified to the nation how some of these children, with politically and economically influential parents, believe that they have indemnity and hence, right to harm others. Some psychological experts feel that this pervasive mindset is also prevalent among law enforcing agency officials who tend to provide more importance to the powerful and intentionally try not to cooperate with those who are the powerless victims.
‘The culture of impunity in case of influential lawbreakers [that children have witnessed during their childhood] is encouraging most of them to commit these crimes now,’ says Professor Zia Rahman, chairman of the department of criminology at the University of Dhaka. He points out that it is important for children to learn about right and wrong from their parents and within their families.
Selina Hossain, renowned author and chairman of the Bangladesh Shishu Academy, believes, ‘Family plays the important role at building a child’s mindset. If a child can not inherit good behaviour, it will be tough to behave appropriately by him for the rest of his life. Education and government institutions can do little to change this behaviour.’
Selina points out that as the present generation is largely misguided, ‘the government can take some steps to ensure a better future for the nation.’
Two years earlier, the government took the National Integrity Strategy (NIS) initiative and also formed Ethics Committees to steer up practices of integrity and good governance in all government and non-government [political parties, NGOs, Family, Educational institutions etc] institutions.
Unfortunately, the ethics committees could do very little to change the situation due to bureaucratic complicacies. Even the department of social services (DoSS), the concerned state authority for the child-teenager correction process, could not implement NIS suggestions into its various services.
A member of the DoSS ethics committee, ASM Sayed Hassan, confesses that he is not well-informed about the activities of the committee as he was absent from its scheduled meetings.
Selina, regrets, ‘Implementation of the NIS would be good for the society.’ She stresses strict monitoring by the government to make the committees more effective.

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