One late evening in 2006, 19-year-old Kencho was walking home from Rigsum Institute in Thimphu where he was studying IT. All of a sudden, a group of unidentified boys encircled him and started hitting him indiscriminately. The incident left him utterly shocked and traumatized. He had no clues why he was attacked and who were the culprits. Since that day, he began to feel insecure to be alone. In the following days, he started contacting his close friends and brought them together to discuss how they should have their own defense mechanism so that others won’t be able to threaten them in the future. A series of meetings and discussions he had with his friends over the span of few months eventually led to the birth of MB Boys (Mass Brothers Boys) in 2007 under his leadership.
During the next three years, MB Boys went on to become one of the most notorious gangs in Bhutan with more than 700 registered members throughout the country. Both boys and girls who felt insecure or threatened came forward to join the gang to take refuge in its strength. In a bid to defend the interest of its members, it ended up committing several crimes ranging from robbery, theft, substance abuse/drugs trafficking and gang fights. As a result, many members of the gang landed up in the jail including even their leader, Kencho, who was commonly referred to as Mr. Ken. It was in the jail when Ken first began to realize that what he was doing was not right. The spiritual talks organized by jail officials for the inmates provided him with new insights into the real value of life and helped him see the world through the eyes of his victims. For the first time in three years, he realized how much pain his victims would have gone through when his gang-members harmed them. But as a well-respected leader, he could not walk out of the gang straight away when he was released. He had the responsibility to manage and support the group. He was not yet prepared to betray the trust his members had placed on him.
Soon after his release in 2010, Ken heard that he was once again being sought by police for some other crimes his gang had committed. This news left him with no option but to flee the country and live in isolation away from the reach of Bhutanese law enforcement. He stayed in India for four months, completely cut off from his friends and families in Bhutan. . Then when he finally returned to his village, he received a call from the Royal Bhutan Police requesting him to come to Thimphu. He was promised that he won’t be arrested. He was told that the Royal Government of Bhutan was coming up with a new plan to disband all the gangs in Bhutan and he was requested to kindly cooperate with the authorities and support the initiative.
After having lived in constant fear and stress for so long, Ken was ready to join the move. But he wasn’t sure how his members would react to his decision. Although some of the members initially protested, he eventually got the support of his friends to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Royal Government of Bhutan and officially disbanded MB Boys on 26th August 2010 in Thimphu. The signing of this document marked the beginning of new life for Kencho and many of his friends. As promised by the government, most of them were either employed or given scholarships to continue their studies after the disbandment.
Today, Kencho is a responsible family man with a successful career before him. He looks back to those darker days of his life and breathes a sigh of relief that he was fortunate to be granted a second chance to live. “I am very grateful to the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Royal Bhutan Police for giving me a second life. If I were not offered the opportunity to disband my gang, I would not have become who I am today” he said during the celebration of International Youth Day on 12th August 2017 in Gelephu. He had come all the way from Paro to share his stories with the youth of Gelephu since his experiences dovetailed with the theme of the day “Youth Building Peace”. He advised the youth that they should never try to form a gang or be part of it because it would never bring them peace. “Gang culture is all about creating disharmony in the society. You will never be able to enjoy peace throughout your life” he added, relating it to his own experiences of how stressful his life used to be when he was in the gang. He said that the only thing gangs promote is violence and you become a senseless monster under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and do not mind even stabbing and murdering people on the streets. He said that no matter how big the gang might be, it can never afford to fight with the government. By being a gang-member, you are fighting against your own country. You are hurting your own brothers and sisters by creating unnecessary problems in the society. He said that the formation of MB Boys in the first place was the biggest mistake of his life and he still goes to the temples today to ask for forgiveness. Let us all now learn from his painful experiences and become responsible advocates of peace in the society in our own small way.
(The writer blogs at amrithdiary.wordpress.com)