Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gay professor's death still shrouded in suspicion even as charges laid

On Thursday, I reported the disturbing death of gay professor, Srinivas Ramchandra Siras. His suspicious death is a major news story in the LGBT community of India. Professor Siras was harassed for being gay. Incredulously, in a sting operation he was filmed having consensual sex with another man and subsequently was suspended from the university in February for "gross misconduct". He fought that suspension and won.

Was Professor Siras's death a suicide or was foul play involved? Check out excerpts from the latest headlines:

Curious twist to gay AMU professor death case:
In a curious twist to the controversy surrounding the death of a gay AMU professor, his cellphone has gone missing even as a case of criminal trespass has been lodged against six persons, including four senior AMU officials.

Students hounded gay professor to his death:
Gay teacher Srinivas Ramchandra Siras was found dead after being exposed [as homosexual] by students who broke in to his home and filmed him with his partner. Gay rights campaigners say the students and the media drove Siras to his death and Prince Manvendra Singh, India's first openly gay royal, says the professor's death is akin to murder. "These people need to be taken to task. What right did they have to attack his privacy? It was private, consensual sex and these students and television people got him to commit suicide," he said.

It took the death of Professor Siras for the wheels of justice to finally turn:
It has taken death for the wheels of justice to finally begin moving in the case of AMU professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras. Two days after he was found dead at his rented house, the Aligarh police this evening lodged an FIR [first information report] against four AMU officials and three media persons, one of them unidentified, who had allegedly forced their way into his house, shot his nude photos with another man, and created the controversy which led to his public humiliation and suspension by university authorities.

Times of India: Arrests made in suspicious death of gay professor:
Acting on court orders, a first information report (FIR) was registered on Saturday against four Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) officials and some journalists for breaching the privacy of gay varsity teacher Srinivas Ramchandra Siras, who was found dead on Wednesday.

Siras was filmed in a consensual homosexual act with a rickshaw puller in his room in the AMU premises and was suspended from the university in February for "gross misconduct." He had filed a case in the chief judicial magistrate's (CJM) court accusing the AMU officials and some journalists of intruding into his privacy by carrying out a sting operation on him.

"Four AMU officials - Zubair Khan (proctor), Farheed Ahmad Khan (deputy proctor), Rahat Abrar (public relations officer), N.A.K. Durrani (media adviser) and three local journalists have been booked under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code," police Inspector Ghanshyam Singh told reporters here. "They have been booked under several sections including, 347 (wrongful confinement), 355 (assault with intent to dishonour person), 452 (house trespass), 506 (criminal intimidation), 120 B (criminal conspiracy)," he added.
Gay teacher's family demands justice in his suspicious death:
The family members of Aligarh Muslim University professor Srinivas Ramchandra Siras — found dead on Wednesday — met the police on Saturday and demanded a probe to ascertain if he committed suicide or was poisoned.

Gay community demands probe in teacher's death:
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community and social activists on Thursday demanded an impartial investigation into the mysterious death of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) professor S R Siras, who was earlier suspended on charges of "gross misconduct" on campus following his homosexual act with a rickshaw puller. Siras was found dead in his home on Wednesday with blood oozing out of his mouth.

A statement by a coalition of NGOs working for gay rights and others said:
"We, as concerned citizens -- 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".

"Dr Siras' suspension had provoked outrage from countless citizens across the country. He had challenged the AMU administration in the Allahabad High Court. Just this past week, the court stayed his suspension and his unlawful removal from his official accommodation," according to the the statement.

"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," the statement said.

"That Dr Siras had to undergo the trauma, fear, harassment and humiliation in his own beloved 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," it added.
Gay prof was known as a literary genius:
Prof Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras was born and brought up in Nagpur.

He had done his post-graduation in humanities from Hislop College before completing his PhD on eminent Marathi author Gajanan Tryambak Madkholkar's writings.

His thesis was on 20 political novels of Madkholkar, perhaps only one from the university to have done his doctorate in this subject, considered difficult by many.

It took Siras 10 years to complete his PhD from 1976 to 1985, during which he also pursued a master's degree in psychology.

He had published a collection of seminar papers in English on comparative literature and his PhD thesis.

Before joining AMU, he had worked as a research assistant in the Department of Linguistics at Ranchi University.

The gay professor was considered a genius and a good critic of Marathi.

His biggest achievement was stated to be creating interest in Marathi at AMU, where a majority of students were Muslims and from Hindi/Urdu background.

He was appointed reader in Modern Indian Languages in 1998.

In Nagpur, too, he had a huge fan following and had guided many students in their research projects related to Marathi literature.

His research work on BC Mardekar's poems was highly appreciated.

Siras used to preside over most of the symposia on Mardekar's poems at Dharampeth's Raja Ram Library.

A poet himself, Siras got the Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad award for his 2002 collection of poems -- Paya Khalchi Hirawal (Grass under my feet).