Teen gangs under the shelter of 64 ‘big brothers’ in Chattogram

Prothom Alo illustration

There are at least 200 active teen gangs in Chattogram city. Each of these groups has five to 15 members. There are a total of 1,400 teen gang members in the city, according to the figures of the 16 police stations under the Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP).

The police say some 64 “big brothers”, including five ward councillors of the Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) patronise these gangs. They control 45 main points of the city.

The members of these teen gangs are involved in different types of offences, including killing, forcefully occupying lands, kidnapping, mugging, extortion, intimidating others with weapons and teasing to maintain supremacy in specific areas. Most of them are from lower class or middle class families. Although these groups are called teen gangs, these also include people aged between 20-32 years.

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This teen gang culture in the city came into limelight following the killing of schoolboy Adnan Isfar in the city’s Jamal Khan area in 2018. The police prepared a list of teen gangs the following year. Since then, teen gangs have been involved in 548 incidents of criminal offences, including 34 murders.

According to RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) and police sources, the local 'big brothers' encourage the rising youth to flock to these gangs. They build these gangs to maintain supremacy in the area for extortions. A large part of these extortions are spent for the members of these teen gangs.

It’s not possible for the police to prevent this alone. The aware citizens will have to come forward. However, no offender will be spared
Krishnapada Roy, CMP commissioner

As per the list of gangs prepared by the CMP in 2019, some 48 persons were the godfathers of these teen gangs, who are known as ‘big brothers’ in the area.

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The police have identified at least 16 more persons who are patronising these teen gangs while investigating cases. The police have arrested some 188 teen gang members, including chiefs of area wise teen gangs, from July last year to February this year.

CMP police commissioner Krishnapada Roy said, “It’s not possible for the police to prevent this alone. The conscious citizens will have to come forward. However, no offender will be spared.”

The number of teen gang-related cases has also increased in the courts of Chattogram. In all, some 2,232 such cases are under trial at the moment and most of these are teen-gang-related. There were some 1,088 such cases just three years ago.

Speaking regarding this, professor Indrajit Kundu of the Department of Sociology at Chittagong university said, “The guardians must keep an eye on their children as to who are their friends. Besides, the homeless children and teens should be rehabilitated.”

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One councillor controls 14 gangs

Although Nur Mostafa alias Tinu doesn’t hold any post, he claims himself a leader of Chattogram city Jubo League. He was elected the councillor of ward-16 of CCC while in prison after being arrested by the RAB with arms and ammunition. He alone patronises 14 teen gangs.

Those who are providing the teenagers with arms and drugs to step up their influence in the areas, must be brought to book regardless of their political affiliations. Otherwise, everyone will have to bear the consequences
Akhtar Kabir, secretary, SHUJAN, Chattogram

On 3 March, a case was filed with the Panchlaish police station against Nur Mohammad and five members of one of his gangs on the allegations of threatening and beating a person named Mehedi Hasan at his office.

The court sent him to jail denying his bail plea after he surrendered in this case. Apart from this, he is accused in four cases, including murder cases. However, councillor Nur Mostafa refuted all the allegations against him, including patronising teen gangs, before landing in jail.

Apart from the 14 gangs under the shelter of Nur Mostafa, there are eight more active teen gangs in the Chawkbazar area, the police said.

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Speaking to Prothom Alo, Mehedi Hasan, the plaintiff of the case filed against Nur Mostafa on 3 March, “Nobody dares to open up against Nur Mostafa. I dared to do so, and now I am afraid for my life.”

Willing to be unnamed, an owner of an under-construction building in the Kapasgola area in Chawkbazar said he was forced to buy construction materials at a higher price from the followers of Nur Mostafa. Otherwise, they (gangs run by Nur Mostafa) won’t let anyone use any construction material purchased from other sources in the area.

The gang under the shelter of councillor Wasim

Wasim Uddin Chowdhury, councilor of Pahartali ward-13 of the CCC and vice-president of city Jubo League is known for armed showdowns near the polling stations during the national and local government elections. He patronises four gangs in the GEC, Pahartali and Khulsi areas of the city. These four gangs are – ‘Black Shameem’, ‘Soleman Badsha’, ‘Shahed Group’ and ‘Kaiyum Group’.

Police sources say on the day of national elections held on 7 January, one of his followers named Md Shameem shot two people outside a voting booth in the city. Wasim was also made accused in the case filed over this incident. Later, RAB arrested Shameem.

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Earlier on 27 January 2021, a day labourer named Alauddin was shot dead in front of the Aambagan Yusef Technical School on the day of Chattogram city elections. Wasim was one of the accused in the case filed over the killing. Later, the plaintiff appealed to omit his name from the case. The case is still under investigation.

Speaking regarding this, Wasim Uddin Chowdhury claimed to Prothom Alo that the plaintiff named him among the accused only to harass him.

Three more councillors on the list

Apart from them, ward-4 councillor Esrarur Haque, ward-14 councillor and city Swechchhasebak League vice-president Abul Hasnat alias Belal and ward-9 councillor (temporarily suspended) Zahurul Alam alias Jashim are also in the police list of councillors who are patronising teen gangs.

The police say there are four teen gangs- ‘Dhama Jewel’, ‘Lamba Dida’, ‘Sohel Group’ and ‘Rifat Group’ – who operate under the shelter of councillor Esrarur Haque, who himself is accused in four separate cases. Zahurul Haque has four groups named ‘Billal Group’, ‘Salauddin Group’, ‘Shakil Group’ and ‘Anis Group’ under his belt. Abul Hasnat patronises four teen gangs – ‘Dish Salauddin’, ‘Zahid Group’, ‘Nahid Group’ and ‘Tanzid Group’.

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Prothom Alo spoke to each of these councillors and they all denied the allegations saying they are not affiliated with any teen gang.

More active in Kotwali and Bayazid Bostami thanas

The teen gangs are comparatively more active and reckless in areas under the Kotwali and Bayazid Bostami police stations, said the police and the locals. There are 23 gangs in the areas under the Kotwali police station and 19 in areas under the Bayazid Bostami police station.

Among the major teen gangs in Kotowali police station areas are the ‘Rauf Group’ patronised by Chawkbazar Awami League’s youth and sports affair secretary Abdur Rauf, local Chhatra League leader Enamul Haque’s ‘Enam Group’, ‘Arman Group’ under the shelter of Ekhlas Uddin who claims to be a Jubo League member, ‘Sayeed Group’ so-called Jubo League leaders Abdullah Al Sayeed, so-called Jubo League leader Mohiuddin’s ‘Tushar Group’.

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City Jubo League member Abu Mohammad Mohiuddin patronises the teen gang after his name – ‘Mohiuddin Group’. The gang is active in the Nasirabad, Polytechnic and Shershah areas. Besides, there are separate gangs patronised by Didarul Alam, Md Shafi and Abdul Quddus, who are known to be local Awami League leaders. There are two other gangs named the ‘Saiful Group’ and ‘Zahid Group’ in the Bayazid Hill View areas led by Saiful Alam and Zahid Hossain respectively.

Shafiqur Rahman, president of the Hill View Residential Welfare Association, told Prothom Alo that showdowns with arms and teen gang violence have become daily incidents there. However, nobody dares to open up about this. People don’t want to file cases against these gangs out of fear.

Apart from that, at least 10 groups are active in the CRB, Kadmatoli, Khulshi, Ambagan and Tigerpass areas of the city with the connivance of central Jubo League deputy finance secretary Helal Akbar Chowdhury, so-called Jubo League leader named Ritu Dash and former assistant general secretary of Central Chhatra League Saiful Alam alias Limon, Lalkhan Bazar ward Awami League general secretary Didarul Alam alias Masum.

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However, all of them denied the allegation of running teen gangs. There are 43 more ‘big brothers’ who control teen gangs. Apart from the Chawkbazar, Kotowali and Bayazid Bostami, there are a total of 178 active teen gangs in areas under the remaining 13 police stations.

Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN) secretary in Chattogram Akhtar Kabir Chowdhury said, “Those who are providing the teenagers with arms and drugs to enhance influence in the areas, must be brought to book regardless of their political affiliations. Otherwise, everyone will have to bear the consequences.”

* This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu