In 2017, seven minors between 11 and 16 years of age were arrested for raping a 10-year-old child in a remote village in South West Khasi Hills.
Two juveniles were among six arrested for raping a teenager in 2020. One of the rapists had just attained adulthood.
In the latest bomb blast case in Shillong, two teenagers were arrested. They, along with another, are in the juvenile home in Shillong in connection with the case.
The number of juvenile arrests in the state is numerous as many teenagers and children are getting sucked into the world of crime that varies from petty theft, violence to rape. The latest arrest of the teenagers in connection with the bomb blast in the city has indicated a grave fallacy in the society that is forcing even educated youths to walk the dark path.
The cases of juvenile delinquencies have made it imperative for society as well as authorities to think about the root causes. Why is there a rise in juvenile crime? What is prompting our children to go against law? What kind of education should be practised to make children understand the right and the wrong? How can society rehabilitate those children who have already been caught in the whirlwind of crime? These are some crucial questions which need to be answered at this juncture.
A 2021 research on psychological analysis of juvenile delinquency showed that “the disordered early family life is the key to adolescents’ disorder of life, and the deviation of the life course was an important reason for their criminal offences”.
Broken families and chequered family life may be one cause for a child to become delinquent but not the sole reason. Prof. Bishwa Nath Mukherjee, in his research paper ‘Psychological Approach to Juvenile Delinquency’, says various theories have been put forward but none of them alone satisfactorily explains delinquency.
Till a certain point of time, it was believed that those who get involved in crime at a young age may show a mental state known as ‘mental imbecility’. This theory of mental imbecility had much traction among psychologists until new researches showed other factors prompting delinquency in children.
Rosana Lyngdoh, a veteran educationist, says children need to have motivation and the education system must provide that.
“Children today have become very restless. I feel that they lack motivation in the right areas. The education system is not student-friendly and I know that. Also, expectations from a student in the family are at times high and do not match the student’s bandwidth,” says Lyngdoh.
The defect in the school curriculum puts a lot of mental pressure on children and at times pushes them to the brink. A child barely has the freedom to do what he or she likes the most and this often leads to frustration.
The educationist also points at “forced discipline” at home saying this often fails to actually discipline a child. “If the environment in which a child is growing up can nurture him or her to be self-disciplined, then the child will be better off and will develop better reasoning power,” she added.
Some studies have found a high correlation between broken home and the incidence of delinquency.
However, she does not agree that broken families or single parenting is the sole reason for a child to take the crime path. “It is more about how the family is communicating with the child,” she points out.
A single working mother of two school-going daughters says on condition of anonymity that she constantly communicates with her children to understand their problems and encourages them to open up to her.
“I have a busy day as I have to go out for work. But the cases of more and more children getting involved in crime have made me jittery. So, despite my busy schedule, I sit with my daughters every day to ask about their day and what problems they faced on a particular day. As a parent, I think communicating with children is important. Else, they go into a cocoon, which is not good for their mental development,” the 32-year-old mother echoes Lyngdoh.
For children coming from the lowest stratum of society, the economic condition of families often push them into crime. Shima Modak, founder of SPARK non-governmental organisation, says when survival is at stake, a child is forced to take to crime.
“No one wants to be a criminal. No parent want to see the child in jail. But the economic disparity forces them to become criminals. In case of poor families, there is definitely a lack of parental care,” says Modak, who had earlier counselled many juvenile inmates.
Iamon M. Syiem, the chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, says the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has also led a lot of mental pressure in children and some of them are finding it difficult to cope with it.
Syiem informed that she will visit three villages, one in East Khasi Hills and two in Ri Bhoi, to follow up with reported POCSO cases.
Social Welfare minister Kyrmen Shylla says the recurring crimes by juveniles, especially youths joining militant group, are worrying him and he wants the department to conduct a study to find solution.
“The government and the society should know the reason and analyse what compels the youths to join militancy and resort to violence. Some illegal acts of the youth harm not only them but it also brings disgrace to the society,” he says.
“The groups which are recruiting the youths are spoiling them and not bothered about their future. Though unemployment is cited as the reason for youths joining militancy, I want them to explore avenues by themselves as there are a lot of opportunities,” the minister adds.
There is definitely a need for an in-depth study on the number of crimes by juveniles and collection of statistics on the subject for the last few years. This will not only help policymakers, NGOs and other stakeholders to understand the situation in entirety but help them in taking corrective measures.
Society too has to play an important role in protecting and guiding children. Castigation and ostracisation of those already facing action will not help and there has to be strong measures to reform those in juvenile homes. “No child should be tagged a criminal. That closes the door for them to come back to normal life. Society should stop discriminating. Also, those children who are caught crossing international borders should not be kept in juvenile homes as this affects them psychologically. They are criminals,” says Modak.
As stated by Lyngdoh, a well-planned education system will go a long way to secure the future of children.
~ Team Sunday Monitor
Society has failed
When there is perceived injustice and perceived inaction, the seed of discontent, resentment and anger will germinate into ideas, ideologies and strategies, that unless channelled into constructive and positive action which would lead to that desired expectation, contains in itself the potential for dangerous reactions, violence and irreparable harm to all. Nowhere is this passion to ‘right perceived wrongs’ more apparent than in young people. This is phenomenon that history and nations can verify. It is nothing new.
The terrible deed that just rocked the city of Shillong recently is evident of what has just been stated. The youths responsible for this will face the harsh consequences of their action. The question remains, will people who contribute to dysfunctions and systems abuse be made accountable for the same?
I have one conclusion: Society as a whole has failed to protect the vulnerable especially, by our apathy and our arrogance, with our lack of sensitivity and yes, even our lack of creativity and relevance to the changing times. Our selfishness has blinded us to the pain of those who feel it, especially our youths. This symptom of a deeper malady has to be sincerely and consistently addressed before peace and healing can ever be restored.
~ Iamon M. Syiem
Chairperson, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights