On 27th June 2016, a 16-year-old student was reportedly stabbed to death below Changangkha Lhakhang in Thimphu while trying to stop a gang fight. Three days later on 30th June 2016, another 19-year-old student of a private school in Thimphu was pursued and stabbed twice at his back by five masked boys below Druk School. While the victim is currently recovering at JDW National Referral Hospital, such incidents are a gruesome reminder that Thimphu, or for that matter, any urban center in Bhutan is not at all safe for us to roam abount casually. These two latest incidents are, however, not the first cases reported this year. On 15th January, a 23-year-old taxi driver was brought to Phuntsholing hospital after being stabbed several times by some thugs. He soon succumbed to his wounds. Then on 10th February, a 15-year-old Bhutanese student studying at North Point in Darjeeling, India stabbed one of his Indian friends to death during an adventure camp. So what lessons can we learn from such tragedies?
When Bhutan first opened its door to the digital world through television and internet on June 2, 1999, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo had advised us to use the facilities responsibly for the benefit of the nation. Until then, we had deliberately stayed aloof from the outside world to protect ourselves from external influences and to ensure internal peace and stability within the scope of our own culture and traditions. But soon after we got the facilities that broke open our door to the outside world, the people of Bhutan seemed to have forgotten what His Majesty the King had advised us. Prior to the advent of internet and television, we never heard about gang violence and drug abuse among the youth. But today, gang culture has become one of the biggest threats to social stability and harmony. I can’t say for sure that such negative developments are a byproduct of our excessive exposure to western cultures through internet and television, but I am sure this is something we never had in our culture for centuries. So definitely our youth could be picking up such trends from elsewhere. With gang violence and stabbing cases constantly on the rise, I can’t even imagine how this great nation with its head high up in the clouds is experiencing a wave of crimes which is associated with urban life in America and Europe. It is very sad that Bhutan is also no longer safe for especially children and women. This is certainly not what our forefathers wanted us to go through. This is certainly not what our beloved kings want to see. It is our sacred duty to embrace peace and love we have been blest by our ancestors and pass these values on to our children intact. But what we are seeing nowadays is really an insult to the wishes of our beloved kings and our ancestors.
I think one reason why such crimes are on the rise despite frequent public awareness campaigns and professional interventions could be due to the lack of harsher penalties in place. It seems people are not afraid of going to jail these days. I heard that convicts have a lot of freedom and fun in the prisons as they are not subjected to physical torture as before. So for somebody who is really frustrated with life, jail could be seen as a comfort zone. According to the discussion on social media on such issues, many people call for harsher penalties for such crimes so that the offenders won’t repeat what they have done. Today, many culprits are found to be repeating the same offences over and over again despite being locked up for sometime. This clearly shows that they really deserve tougher punishments. The RBP officials must be given greater authority to deal with culprits. Most importantly, the carrying of weapons like knives should be strictly prohibited and there should be strict guidelines in place for the sale of such weapons to teenagers. Otherwise, it won’t be impossible for Bhutan to become as unsafe as America where gun violence is rampant. Sometimes I feel our police officers should be armed so that they won’t be attacked by the criminals while arresting them. The latest incident in which a policeman has been critically injured when the culprit he was trying to arrest hit him on the head with a blunt object is really shocking.
Parents also have a very important role in guiding their children into the right path. They must always keep their children on their radar, keeping track of where they are hanging about or with whom. There must be a certain degree of discipline at home to ensure that everybody in the family is safe and healthy. As any other parent, my greatest worry is the future of my children and hence, I and my wife are trying to discipline our children right from now. We have been doing whatever we can to make them understand the negative developments going on around like robbery, gang fights and stabbing with the hope that they would grow up with a clear conscience and humaneness. I and my wife have agreed that as parents, we would never allow our children to stay out too late at night in the future. I feel every parent could take care of his/her own children especially during odd hours, most of the crimes can be prevented. So let us all join this collective fight against undesirable social ills in our society and create a safer world for all of us to live in for generations.