Critical Criminology in India: An invitation extended to you by Abhishek Kumar Tiwari

At the Centre for Criminology and Justice at TISS in Mumbai, India, critical criminology is very much alive in the classrooms, in the research conducted by the graduate students and professors as well as in the community organizations that the Centre participated in creating and supervising.  Dominique Robert (Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa) has had the privilege of teaching and learning at the Centre during her last sabbatical year and wants to relay an invitation to you to participate in a truly original initiative.

The people who graduate from the Centre are invited to start their community organizations through a fellowship program. The objective is to develop services for under-served populations in India, whether by promoting women’s rights in the workplace, helping to provide access to justice for the nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes or alleviating urban and rural poverty.  One of the initiatives born out of the fellowship program is The Sabha, a print and digital newspaper for social justice.  Here is Abhishek Kumar Tiwari about his creation.

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“The Sabha offers a geographical narrative through print and digital media. The organization aims to highlight the political nature of daily life as experienced across different domains of inequality - caste, class, gender, ethnicity, race, disability. The views and opinions are from people in transit- university students, workers, farmers, travelers and artists.

The Sabha is an attempt to build a responsible, peaceful and thinking society. Its function is to make visible the stark inequalities that exist at the intersections of multiple layers in our society. We want to interrogate “human nature” and its relationship with the environment.

The Sabha was started in December 2014 and the editor was supported by the Criminal Justice Fellowship at the Centre for Criminology and Justice, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai for two years (August 2015 to July 2017).

As represented by the top political leaders of India and the U.S.A., crime is a mirror of our society. It helps us to identify what has gone wrong within the fault lines of power, as it relates to law and media, state and market, people and citizens. While we are publishing, we are also trying to link daily struggles in all places, whenever remote, to global politics. Indeed, we try to reverse the tendency that pervades the media outlets where the data which is collected, researched, accumulated, studied are from places where financial and social capital reside. So the news showcases data and opinions that come mostly from these places; they are also the places from which reporters are paid.

All the spaces are important, whether digital or print. At the present juncture, we have very few media outlets which are not owned by corporate people or politicians. They control our minds by feeding us their point of view regularly, diverting us from the important issues. We are not meant to be parasites. We are humans. We can exist peacefully with other human beings and the environment. We aim to bring you news and opinions not only from educated experts but also illiterate people who have been educated through experience. From academic to non-academic spaces.

The Indian 'National Media' barely covers the north-east and southern states. Perhaps, for them the world is only the government of the U.S.A, China, and Pakistan. And over here-ours. We are people before citizens. We bring you content in a geographically-equitable form, from Europe as well as Africa; from North America, as well as South America; from Mankhurd (a slum) of Mumbai to Hauz khaas (a popular hangout ) of Delhi. Of the people too.

The journey has been random, adjusting itself as the people and environment contributed influences. So it started with a print edition and now we have a YouTube channel and websites, with a limited social media presence. Presently, we are planning to have it include three editors – female, transgender, and male, who with the help of university students, will take it forward by sustaining its core essence. We are also looking for student unions and faculties across the world to collaborate in content in particular, to spread the shared chaos and silence. We have not advertised till now, so we are also trying to reach out to people through crowdfunding, which will help us to keep it running. We need to be present tangibly in physical space as well as in bytes of virtual space, however small it may be: to keep on telling the truth, including the imagination, in all the forms of communication, we are staying alive.”

If you are a student or a researcher interested in documenting and acting against inequality, have a read and send your own piece to join this critical criminology initiative (editor@thesabha.org).