Evidencing + combatting hate crime in India: concepts, mindsets, processes

Figure 1: Collaborative prototyping (c) Amanda Perry-Kessaris 2019. 

How might designerly practices such as collaborative prototyping help academics and activists in India work together to evidence and combat hate crime? This is the question at the heart of a collaboration between Mohsin Alam Bhat, Joanna Perry and Amanda Perry-Kessaris which is generously supported by the Society of Legal Scholars Research Activities Fund.

The concept of ‘hate crime’ has increasingly been adopted by legal scholars and practitioners (including police and judicial authorities, and international organisations) around the world to focus analysis and resources on the fact that some criminal acts are ‘motivated by bias or prejudice towards particular groups of people’, that their impact on victims and society is distinctly negative, and that as such they require special attention (Perry 2017, 2014, ODIHR 2009). For example, in England and Wales, disability hate crime is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service as ‘any offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s disability or perceived disability.’ In a 2016 survey of people with learning disabilities and autism, 73% of respondents had experienced hate crime, and over half of them had experienced it in the last year. Those experiences included gang rape, assault on public transport, verbal abuse by strangers and family and accusations of paedophilia (Dimensions UK 2016).

India is an established democracy where foundational principles such as secularism are under unprecedented attack from Hindu nationalist political discourse and governance tactics; hate crime is on the rise; official recording of individual instances of hate crime is systematically avoided or delayed; independent efforts to record and report hate crime have been closed down; and hate crime is left out of national crime statistics (Human Rights Watch 2020; Bhat 2018). 

In seeking to understand how designerly ways might contribute to evidencing and combatting hate crime in India, this project builds on Facing All the Facts—an empirically ground-breaking and methodologically innovative study which aimed to support and accelerate the process of making hate crime conceptually and empirically visible in Europe. It covered six countries (Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK), was conducted on behalf of a diverse partnership of 11 public and civil society organisations from nine countries operating across institutional boundaries in a live field of criminal justice policy and practice. It demonstrated that:

  • When public authorities and civil society actors see themselves as part of a ‘system’ for reporting, recording and responding to hate crime, new productive ways of combatting hate crime become possible and probable; and 
  • In a participatory workshop setting, those disparate, sometimes antagonistic, stakeholders can be collectively prompted and facilitated towards embracing such a perspective using strategies from the field of social design—for example, through collaborative prototyping of that actual/potential system (Figure 1). 
  • For example, participant feedback indicated that (Perry-Kessaris and Perry 2020) collaborative prototyping enhanced the level and quality of participation by allowing them to construct and critique a fuller picture of hate crime recording and data collection; ‘to see and compare peoples’ perceptions’; ‘to look another person in the eye and admit that the relationship could be improved’’ and together to identify ‘discrepancies’.
  • Furthermore, participant feedback revealed that the workshops improved the likelihood of meaningful impact being generated from the wider research project. For example, participants found it helpful to connect, often for the first time, with other system actors; and they made plans for systemic changes directly as a result of the workshops. 

The India project begins the important process of re-testing, enhancing and disseminating the Facing All the Facts insights and methodology beyond European contexts; and goes beyond Facing All the Facts by also addressing the actual/potential role of academic discourse in making hate crime more conceptually and empirically visible.

The central project activity will be a two-day invitational workshop in Delhi bringing together 20 participants drawn from an established network of Indian academics and civil society actors engaged in impactful scholarship and/or action around hate crime. Day one will focus on practice including participatory testing/training using Facing Facts methodology, especially prototyping; while day two will focus on research including a participatory reflection/prospection roundtable deploying a new, bespoke, ‘scholarly discourse prototyping’ method. Like the Facing All the Facts project, the workshop will emphasise collaborative prototyping because it focuses minds at the intersections between the ‘actual’ and the ‘potential’ and generates shared spaces for understanding and reflection (Perry-Kessaris and Perry 2020). For example, Figure 1 shows how practitioner participants in the proposed workshop might experiment with paper, string and an adhesive wall to prototype actual/potential hate crime reporting and recording systems across India; or academic participants might prototype scholarly discourse.

The project aims are to:

  • Conceptualise the disparate actors involved in reporting, recording and responding to hate crime as forming an actual/potential ‘system’ in an Indian context;
  • Use designerly strategies such as collaborative prototyping to co-create shared understandings of current hate crime reporting and recording, and shift mindsets among civil society actors and impact-oriented academics;
  • Disseminate insights in scholarly and accessible form; and
  • Assess the risks and rewards of a possible future project, again in an Indian context, but this time also including public authorities such as police.

Team

  • Mohsin Alam Bhat is Assistant Professor at Jindal Global Law School with extensive, pioneering and impactful, experience in the field of hate crime in India including Hate Crime Watch–an innovative database which filled an urgent gap in public knowledge by carefully documenting the rise of religious-bias-motivated hate crime in India, and that won the international 2019 Global Editors Network Data Journalism Website of the Year Award; and directing the Hate Crimes Clinic at the Centre for Public Interest Law, which brings together impact-oriented faculty and students with practitioners.
  • Joanna Perry is an independent hate crime consultant who was research lead on the Facing All the Facts project. She has previously worked as Hate Crime Officer at the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, criminal justice policy lead at Victim Support UK, and hate crime policy and performance lead at the Crown Prosecution Service, and has published on widely on current challenges in achieving a shared global concept of hate crime.
  • Amanda Perry-Kessaris is Professor of Law at Kent Law School. She is currently supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to investigate how designerly ways can enhance sociolegal research. Her monograph Doing sociolegal research in design mode is scheduled for publication by Routledge in 2020.

References

Bhat, M A (2018) ‘The Case for Collecting Hate Crimes Data in India’4:9 Law & Policy Brief

CEJI Facing All the Facts website

Dimensions UK (2016) ‘Position statement: hate crime towards people with learning disabilities and autism’. 23 November 2016.

Human Rights Watch (2020) World Report 2020

ODIHR (2009), ‘Hate Crime Laws, A Practical Guide’

Perry, J (2016) ‘A Shared Global Perspective on Hate Crime?’ 27:6 Criminal Justice Policy Review 610.

Perry, J (2014). ‘Evidencing the case for hate crime’. In Chakraborti, N. and Garland, J. eds. Responding to hate crime: The case for connecting policy and research Bristol: Policy Press 71-84.

Perry-Kessaris, A and Perry, J (forthcoming 2020) ‘Enhancing participatory strategies with designerly ways for sociolegal impact: Lessons from research aimed at making hate crime visible in Europe’ Social and Legal Studies.

Perry-Kessaris, A (2019) ‘Legal design for practice, activism, policy and research’ 46:2 Journal of Law and Society185-210

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