Youth in Indo-Nepal ‘Cross-Border’ Crime


Dipesh Kumar K.C.

PhD defended at: 

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India


The purpose of this research is to examine the concept critically: open and porous is a prime cause of Indo-Nepal cross-border crime and the involvement of youth in that type of crime. The sociological and criminological approaches have been applied to find out the fact about youth in cross-border crime. Dostoevsky's approach which argues that the prison reflects the microcosm of the society outside has been considered to understand the Indo-Nepal border society focusing Nepal's prison in the Central Terai at Birgunj city adjoin with Indian border as the field of the study. It focuses on the causes behind the youth in crime and their vulnerability to the cross-border crime whereas it explores the governmental and non-governmental interventions as counter-productive that enforce youth towards crime. Youth who are already struggling for their definite identity feel suppressed in their society because of affect-able internal and external factors and thus the chances of their high involvement in the crime. It is not because of their youthfulness and age they are vulnerable but the perception of the society and state-centric policy that makes them vulnerable indeed the well-organized crime and their upper class operators misuse their socio-economic vulnerability to run their illegal business smoothly. It explores problems and challenges of the Nepal's prison system associated with the life of the prisoner. This study has attempted to find out the strengthening bond of organized crime in the border areas, where multiple crises have emerged as the products and counter products of the internal social problem, imposed policies and external factors.
Sociologically, youth denotes a phase between childhood and adulthood. They have a fresh outlook towards life and always seek new in the social world. Youth is the most fertile and exciting period of human life with both positive as well as negative sides. Youths are slaves of their passion where their ambition prevents their ever brooking a slight and renders them indignant at the mere idea of enduring and injury (Kakar 1970, 1). Moreover, they always seek changes in their favour. The age of youth is a golden period that all the life's important decisions are made in this period. If any decision goes wrong, a person bears the consequences for life. Youth is constructed differently in different societies, and the experience of youth within different societies varies according to social class, caste/ethnicity, gender, religion, race, physical structure, ability and so on. Youth behaviour is highly affected by the place of the habitat, the available social milieu and social characters of the youth. These factors are interrelated and influence each other in the construction of the youth characteristics.
Young people today grow up in a complex world because of globalization, digital technology, the rapid spread of mass communication, global economic inequality, and increasing access to drug. Moreover, they are at high risks of suppression, exploitation, alienation, neglect and marginalization consequently of limited life chances, inadequate resources, and decision-making skills. Youth at risks associated with significant socio-economic challenges including unemployment, underemployment, early marriage, sexual abuse, school dropout, and crime.
A large population of youth is in Indo-Nepal border zones, notably excluded generation, are facing blocked transitions to adulthood due to multiple social, economic and political exclusions related to age, gender, illiteracy, poverty, inequality, cultural affiliations, and other factors. Dominant social attitudes and discriminatory cultural practices reinforce exclusions; in addition, exclusion limits their capabilities and opportunities. Thus, above factors are behind the creation of aggressiveness, feelings of revenge against privileged individuals or groups, frustrations in the available social milieu and problematic socialization that likely motivate youth towards criminal behaviour. On the other hand, they are labelled as criminals.
Statement of Problem
The study has two principal objectives. The first is to contribute to the studies of cross-border crime and sociology of crime by analysing the cases of Indo-Nepal cross-border crime and exploring the role of cross-cultural factors in crime. The second objective is to contribute to the formulation of policies of crime prevention and socio-economic progress in the Indo-Nepal border society. It aims to addresses a broad range of issues, including social, economic and personal characteristics of the prisoners alleged for their involvement in Indo-Nepal Cross-Border crime. It attempts to analyse family background, history, perceptions towards society, social members and law enforcement institutions as well as environmental factors that reflect the broad range of youth involvement in crime in the Indo-Nepal border area. The study has raised the critical questions on the preliminary research that indicates that being open and porous are the prime causes of crime in Indo-Nepal border areas. It further examined the notions such as poverty, unemployment, marginalisation, illiteracy and exploitation are the causes of the youth involvement in the crime in the region. It has analysed the people-to-people relation, which is challenged by the imposed law, and the state-centric policy. Therefore, perhaps they react against it and thus crime flourishes. The study has attempted to find out the crime as a way of life and practice, learned by the border youth, is socially accepted in the border areas. Also, the politicisation of crime and criminalisation of politics in the border region has been examined. This work also analyses and evaluates the role of the border society, state, and external factors that are generating and influencing the crime at Birgunj-Raxaul border areas. The researcher further attempts to explore how the law imposed in the border areas are counter-productive, motivating the youth towards crime.
The researcher has outlined the following objectives:
1. To examine the idea that "open border" is a prime cause for Indo-Nepal cross-border crime.
2. To examine the role of youth and their problems in the Indo-Nepal border zone.
3. To examine cross-cultural ties and its interrelationship with the involvement of youth in cross-border crime.
4. To identify the multiple causes of Indo-Nepal cross-border crime and its consequences.
5. To find out the implementation and impact of governmental and non-governmental policy on crime in the border zone
Research Questions
1. What is the social background of youth (class, caste, community, age, religion, region, education and gender) involved in Indo-Nepal cross-border crime?
2. What is the narrative of youth involved in cross-border crime towards the mainstream society?
3. What is the role of governmental and non-governmental policies to reduce the youth’s involvement in crime or have they been counter-productive in the border regions?
4. Is the open-border system, interrelated with deep cross-border cultural ties, contributing to cross-border crime?
5. Who are the operators of the organised crime in Indo-Nepal border areas?
The study consists of seven chapters besides introduction and conclusion. These are as follows:
Chapter one engages with thetheoretical perspective and methodology related to the topic and their relevance as well as limitations, based on different concepts in the definition of crime and youth. Chapter two deals with the survey of literature focused on youth involvement in crime and characteristics of frontline that provide appropriate opportunities for crime Chapter three outlines the socio-economic circumstance of youth in border zone examines the socio-economic condition of youth by presenting primary data. Chapter four has details of field study in Raxaul-Birgunj Border areas and in-depth case studies in District Prison Parsa. Chapter five deals with the role of governmental and non-governmental policies implemented primarily for youth and security related policies applied in border areas. Chapter six deals with the prison life and social transformation of the inmates in Birgunj Prison. Chapter seven explains the rise of organised crime in Nepal, especially border areas. Finally, in the conclusion, one has summarised the findings and recommendation for solving this issue.
Chapter I
Theoretical Perspective and Methodology
The researcher has explored a range of theoretical and conceptual understanding in order to find out the problems, challenges, and mechanisms for prevention and remedy of the Indo-Nepal cross-border crime. The research has considered Robert Agnew’s conception of general strain theory (GST) to explain the variables that influence youth to commit the crime. It also applied social learning theory whic urges that criminal behavior is more likely to result when an individual associates more with those who engage in and approve of crime than with others who do not. Besides, the perspective of labeling theory has been applied. The core concept of the theory is that society labels or tags criminal on specific individual, groups, community, and caste.
The essence of social control theory is that the causes of crime are linked to the erosion of social control as a result of social disorganization, revealing itself in loosening bonds in the neighborhood, community, family and religion. According to Hirschi (1969), social control is a theory of conformity used to explain deviance. Hirschi asserts that if the social bond is weak or absent, then the delinquent behavior is likely, given the status of youth in society.
The researcher has applied multiple theories and considered their approaches for concrete analysis of youth's involvement in the crime. However, labeling theory, social learning theory and general strain theory are relevant in the study in comparison to other approaches.
Chapter II
Survey of Literature
It raises critical questions in order to analyse the cross-border crime and its effect due to geographical contact as well as social contact. Regarding the crime rate and several societies of US-Mexico borderline crime in adjoining city may not affect the other side that much as expected or assume superficially. However, the social aspects of border societies, the magnitude of cross-border connections, governmental and non-governmental intervention for curbing crime, and external factors that have an impact on such societies including governmental/ non-governmental policies cannot be ruled out to analyse the pattern of cross-border crime.
In general, Borderlands are framed as sensitive zones regarding security; hence, the Indo-Nepal border cannot be exceptional in this issue. Shrestha (2007) explains Indo-Nepal border as porous where smugglers are highly benefitted. Likewise, Shashikumar (2008a) states that Nepal-Bihar border is largely unmarked, unguarded and highly porous, where cross-border smuggling is out of control. McDonald and Vaughn (2013) mention India-Nepal border as a porous. Open border, which is portrayed as porous, is explained as the prime cause of various social and economic challenges in Indo-Nepal border areas. However, this is a superficial emphasis by the realted governmental and non-governmental institutions dealing the border issues. Several researchers highlighted geographical significance as a cause of crime in Indo-Nepal border areas. On the contrary, KC (2013c) has challenged the trends of biased arguments which blame open border as a prime cause and further developed the concept that open border with India is not the prime cause of Indo-Nepal cross-border crime and dismiss the presumption that the open border is possibly leading youth attraction to illegal activities.
The decade-long, armed conflict highly affected the Tarai regions of Nepal. In the primary stage of the Maoist insurgency, Hill areas were affected, but the violent conflict spread rapid and rigorously in the Terai. Youths in the Terai were highly motivated and affected by the armed conflict as well as the byproducts of that conflict that flourished new armed groups. The post-conflict Nepal is in a chaos that the transitional phase is still unsettled. At present, separatist groups who raised the radical issue of internal colonization in Terai region are attracting youths towards activities.
Previous researchers have overlooked the sociological aspects in terms of Indo-Nepal cross-border crime and limited the crime as an issue associated with law and order. Meanwhile geographical significance, the especially uniqueness of Indo-Nepal border zone, is also neglected in the analysis of crime. Researchers overlook the counter-productivity of law enforcement without understanding and respecting the socio-cultural practice.
The researcher applies the strategies based on grounded theory, which involves using case studies to explore in-depth knowledge about the individuals. The ethnographic approach has been considered in the fieldwork and overt study has been undertaken. The pilot survey of the study areas provided ideas to apply strategies in the fieldwork done in prisons and border area. The observation of free-flow in the Indo-Nepal border, the youth involvement in smuggling goods as well as the reaction of border security forces and the customs official is supportive of planning the further research.
Mixed methods have applied in the research. It includes a detailed description of the individuals, data drawing on all possibilities, and text analysis. The study addresses the broad range of issues regarding the title, including social and personal characteristics of youth in the areas. Their criminal and employment history; the size and composition of their groups, the significance of underlying social relations for the development of criminal networks; as well as environmental factors, the action of law enforcement sectors namely the legal frameworks and police's strategies. The researcher has seriously considered ethical issues considering priorly to respect research sites so that the sites are left undisturbed after this research study.
Area of Study
The researcher has taken up both primary and secondary data related to the society of Indo-Nepal border region, Birgunj-Raxaul which is a frontline as well as a part of Terai of Nepal and Gangetic plain of India side. The researcher has selected one prison situated in Parsa District of Nepal for selecting samples of the case studies.
Techniques of Data Collection
During the process of research, the researcher has collected the data from documents such as newspapers, official reports especially, Home Ministry, police and court reports, journals, research of other sociologists as well as books related to the topic. Considering the Terai of the Nepal as a primary data collection source the researcher has conducted fieldwork in District Prison Parsa.
The ethnographic material has been generated and in particular case studies have been undertaken for data collection. 40 respondents, 12 each Nepalese male and Indian male and eight each Nepalese female and Indian female, in the prisons have been chosen to conduct case studies including in-depth case studies of seven respondents.
Chapter III
Socio-Economic Circumstances of Youth in Indo-Nepal Border Zone
Young people growing up in the midst of the socio-economic crisis in the Indo-Nepal border are particularly affected considering the social, economic and political issues which have a direct or indirect impact on their psychology. This chapter has explored the psychosocial aspect of youth, socio-economic situation of the border areas, especially Birgunj-Raxaul region, and its impact on youth in crime.
Regarding youth in Indo-Nepal cross-border crime, the firm relationship between crime and socio-economic status has been accounted. The opportunity also pushes the youths, particularly vulnerable segment of the population, towards the crime. Socio-economic aspects of their vulnerability are significantly illiteracy, lower levels of educational attainment, unemployment or uncertain jobs, low-income family, homelessness, migration towards urban areas in search for better life, neighbourhood impacts, etc.
Regarding the socio-economic situation of Raxaul and Birgunj cities, both have a lower level of literacy rate in comparison to the national rate of their respective countries, India and Nepal. External factors associated with political crisis tarnishes the social environment in the border areas. Criminalization of politics and politicization of crime have been highly in practiced in the unstable region like Nepal's Terai. On the other hand, cross-border gang formation and well-established connection have been identified which not only link with the cross-cultural relationship but also has economic and political interests. Interestingly, overwhelming numbers of women involved in the crime has been accounted in cross-border crime that shows that crime is not only an act of male and portrayed as one of the masculine behaviours.
Chapter IV
Field Study in Raxaul-Birgunj Border Areas: Case Studies
The study reflects the worst situation of youth from marginalized community, class and caste in the border areas as well as rest of the region of the country. It reveals the real criminal activities, and the lords of the crime are not inside the prison, however, they are running their business by attracting youths, especially from marginalized community, class and caste. The case studies find out the involvement of different age groups in the cross-border related crimes. Most of the offenders in the prison are from working class community, especially youth of both India and Nepal. Labeled offenders sentenced; however most of the youths are involved in the cross-border crime because of various reasons, both personal and social.
Chapter V
Governmental and Non-Governmental Intervention
Three basic approaches have been attempted in dealing with youth in Indo-Nepal Cross-Border Crime: prevention, intervention, and suppression. Although researcher prioritizes prevention approach, all strategies under different approaches government has implemented or planned are analysed.
Government primarily focuses on four areas: legislation, police enforcement, court procedures, and corrections. Meanwhile, in cooperation with non-governmental organization government also forwarded actions to curb crime. However, prevention-oriented actions are overlooked that they encourage suppression procedures. Besides, governments are not very conscious of the potential of close connectivity and the shared resources in transforming the social and economic fortunes of the Indo-Nepal borderlands. Despite the free flow through the border points deployment of security forces is in prior in the name of regulation of Indo-Nepal borderline, which burden the flow of local people across the border.
Criminal gangs have misused the free-flow across the border all the world. Regarding Indo-Nepal border, hideouts and escapes in both sides of the Indo-Nepal border are also mentioned as a problem. However, modern technology can track any offenders, who hide in any side of either country. It accounts that notorious criminals who hide and run are not an extremely challengeable problem than it thought in the past. Those hide another side of the border are held and extradited informally whenever both governments show seriousness in such operations.
Chapter VI
Prison Life and Social Transformation
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866), who spent years in Russian prisons, commented that the prison reflects the situation of any society and the nation. Furthermore, it reflects the problems and challenges society is facing at present as well as its future. Ghandy (2016) states that he has learned the socio-economy of crime as a prisoner within a jail. Regarding the environment of Delhi's Tihar Jail, he concludes that the prison reflects the microcosm of today's society outside. Hence, Dostoevsky's approach is a landmark to understand the society.
The prison also contributes to the emergence of new kingpin whose birth has the direct connection with the failure of the prison system. Such kingpin has direct control over the system and also has the direct link with powerful politicians and government officials. In the case of Birgunj Prison, groups lead by powerful inmates are controlling it in an autocratic style. Such inmates have political backing with better links in bureaucracy and business circle.
Chapter VII
Rise of Organised Crime
Gangs associated with the organized crime get their identity as "Don" in Nepal. They are involved in both legal and illegal business accounted controlling the business of certain geographical areas. However, such "Dons" are at the middle level in the highly organized gang active in and out of the country.
The findings of Indo-Nepal cross-border crime, where youth involvement and their labeling as criminals overwhelmingly high, reflects the rise of organised crime in the border. On the one hand, organized crime has a high influence on certain border cities and villages. The capital city, Kathmandu, is already facing deep-rooted and invisible influence of organized crime with close transnational interrelationships reflected in the trend associated with the case of trafficking of human, drug, gold, red-sandalwood, counterfeit notes, and money laundering. Border areas, in particular with the southern lines adjoined with North India, are highly sensitive which can be the place of haven for transnational organized crime in near future.
First and foremost, Indo-Nepal border areas are facing distinct socio-economic problems where the agents of the crime-control mechanism are either ineffective, useless or counter-productive. The perception of center towards border people is negative that the stereotyped attitude makes the outsiders, especially resided at center, make feeling that the frontiers are bad people and most probably criminals. High level of crime and high rate of crime recorded in the Terai region, especially the surroundings of the major border points, is labeling them as a dangerous and sensitive area.
The open border is the beauty of the relation between Nepal and India which can be perceived as opportunities for the both countries rather than problems. However, the concept of open border is challenged by imposed security policies and deployment of massive troops in the borderline by both the countries. On the other hand, the open border is blamed for the prime cause of cross-border crime which is the intentional/unintentional mistake of dealing with the border and crime in those areas.
Regarding the youth involvement in the Indo-Nepal cross-border crime, majority of the youth offenders/detainees are under 30. Among them, police have arrested highest numbers of youth categorized in between 20-30 reflect the situation of vulnerable young age groups at high risk of cross-border crime.
Regarding the youth detained in the case of cross-border crime, the maximum percentage have a history of early school drop out. Illiteracy is not a prime cause of youth involvement in crime. However, low-level formal education and impractical education push youths to the vulnerable section.
Women are misused by the traffickers active in trafficking cross-border goods and human in the Indo-Nepal border regions whereas the number of women operators is rare. The ratio of youth inmates from upper class backgrounds is comparatively less than the lower class youths that show that they are vulnerable to the risk of crime. Youths from suppressed religious background are highly involved in crime in comparison to the privileged religious background.
Criminal gangs flourished in political chaos in Terai regions where criminalization of politics and politicization of crime becomes one of the major problems paving off the way for the organized crime whose operators misuse gangs formed with socially vulnerable youths. Nexus between criminals, police and politician are accounted. Corrupted government officials deployed at border points and security management, and smugglers are working closely with each other. In general, close ties between crime operators and corrupt bureaucrats contribute to the formation of organized crime. In some cases, high-level police officers and bureaucrats are found to be guilty or accused on their close relation with organized cross-border criminal groups for big monetary interest.
In Nepalese context, a prison is a place of stress where inmates are facing long-term mental disturbances. Prison is treated like torture house where people from the marginalized background are suffering the most and thus they are motivated to break the jail in several cases. Moreover, the incidents of youth involvements in jailbreak and attempt of jailbreak have been recorded.
Organised crime is a threat to Nepal. Criminal groups increased the risks especially in the areas adjoining with the Indian plain regions where "Dons" (members of organized criminal groups) has controlled and syndicated the smuggling of goods. An emergence of new dons and their strengthening relation with transnational criminal networks in new heights has increased the threat to security as well as social aspects. Hence, organized criminal groups have become quasi-government in Nepal.