The death of Srinivas Ramachandra Siras, 64, Reader and Chair of Modern Indian Languages at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is shocking. According to news reports, his body was found “in mysterious circumstances” with bleeding from the mouth in his home in Aligarh.
Siras had recently fought against his unlawful and unethical suspension from AMU on the grounds of “gross indecency”. After decades of teaching, he was suspended merely a few months before his retirement on the basis of videotapes filmed by intruders in his own home without his consent in a blatant and homophobic violation of his privacy.
Right after that incident, he said: “I have spent two decades here. I love my university. I have always loved it and will continue to do so no matter what. I wonder if they have stopped loving me because I am gay.”
Siras’ suspension had provoked outrage from countless citizens, teachers, and community members across the country. He had challenged the AMU administration in the Allahabad High Court. Just last week, the court had stayed his suspension and his unlawful removal from his official accommodation. “I am happy because I have been judged in a wrong way,” Siras had said. “I have already said that I am gay. I am the same man, with the same qualifications, with the same features and personality. Now I can go back to my beloved university.”
We, as concerned citizens, members of the Independent Fact Finding Committee and, for many of us, as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Indians ourselves, express our shock, outrage and deep sadness at the loss of a teacher, a loyal member of the AMU community, a gay man, and a kind, gentle soul.
Since the death of Siras has taken place under suspicious circumstances, and he has made powerful enemies in the recent past, we demand that the police conduct a full, fair and impartial investigation into the cause of death. A step in the right direction has been taken by sending his body for a post-mortem examination. The results of this examination must be made public immediately.
We demand that the concerned police officer should immediately register a case of unnatural death under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code and forward this information to the executive magistrate concerned. We demand that the executive magistrate conduct an inquest as mandated under Section 176 of the Criminal Procedure Code to determine the cause of death.
That Siras had to undergo trauma, fear, harassment and humiliation in his own university in what would turn out to be his last weeks is condemnable. If these events and that trauma are in any way linked to his death, then all actors involved must be held culpable.
Deepti Sharma, Anjali Gopalan and Gautam Bhan are members of the NGOs Saheli, Naz Foundation, and Voices Against Section 377 respectively
The views expressed by the authors are personal