Statement on the death of Dr Srinivas Ramachandra Siras under suspicious circumstances

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 7th April, 2010

News reports on several media channels have just reported the death of Dr Srinivas Ramachandra Siras, 64, Reader and Chair of Modern Indian Languages at Aligarh Muslim University. According to reports, Dr Siras’ body was found “in mysterious circumstances” with bleeding from the mouth in his home in Aligarh.

Dr Siras, as is known, 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 into own home without his consent in a blatant and homophobic violation of his privacy. Right after, 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.”

Dr 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 this past week, the Court stayed his suspension and his unlawful removal from his official accommodation. Dr Siras said, “I am happy because I have been judged in a wrong way. 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 Dr. 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 and forward this information to the concerned Executive Magistrate.
  • 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 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.

Deepti Sharma (Saheli, Delhi), Anjali Gopalan (Naz Foundation, Delhi), Gautam Bhan (Voices against Sec 377, Delhi), Pramada Menon (Voices against Sec 377, Delhi), Lesley Esteves (Voices against Sec 377, Delhi), Sunil Gupta (Nigah, Delhi), Arvind Narrain (Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore), Nirantar (Delhi), Avantika (AALI, Lucknow), Saleem Kidwai (Lucknow), Kabi Sherman, LABIA (Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action, Mumbai).

36 thoughts on “Statement on the death of Dr Srinivas Ramachandra Siras under suspicious circumstances”

  1. Very sorry to read of the professor’s death. The AMU leadership ought to be held accountable for its actions, and as the report by the “Independent Fact Finding Committee” documents, they are hardly the only ones to blame.

  2. this is sad..also no one declared the result on what basis Aligarh highcourt stayed his suspension..though he has passed away I expect all the LGBT population should create a nationwide opposition similar to Jessica Lal murder case..

  3. Finally a stance. i sincerely hope Dr Srinivas Ramachandra Siras’s death is of service to expose the trappings and the moral cowardice of the society we live in. may he rest in peace.

  4. id like to add further that this is not merely an LGBT cause ..what has happened is a “hate crime” wrong on all basic human levels and that people should come together irrespective of their sexual orientation and strive towards getting rid of this horrific mindset that led to the poor professors death.

  5. Very sorry to hear about the tragic death of Dr. Siras. While the law has changed, there is a need for education to broaden the minds of people. Meanwhile, I urge the authorities to conduct an in-depth investigation into the events leading up to the death of the professor and make sure that the truth is brought to light.

  6. dear Megha, Just curious about the use of the word “poor” by you. Could you elaborate a little why someone who withstand great harassment and stands with his dignity should be called poor?

  7. It is very strange the circumstance of Dr Siras’s death, particularly just after he won his first legal victory.Dr Siras, far from showing any kind of victim mentality, came out publically and in accordance with democratic and secular principles sought justice. In short dignity and integrity. The media instead purports to it as suicide.As per logical deduction and the history of witchunts mentality points rather to a fundamentalist fascist psychology. Those who democratically oppose and start to win their fights must be silenced at any costs.
    It is a hate crime at many levels and it must be challenged at all levels. It is time that the silence must be broken and a campaign must be undertaken to ensure that Dr sirar gets the justice he deserves

  8. Dear Giti, no doubt it is a hate crime supported by a fascist philosophy. but given that india is plagued with fascists from all faiths, could you elaborate on why you feel dr siras’ stance had something to do with ‘secular’ principles?

  9. dear jeebesh
    i hear you ,unfortunately when you feel a bit highstrung one tends to use simple,everyday words that might seem a bit misleading or pedestrian even. thank heavens for spirited bloke like who you feel the need to “spot” this unfortunate faux pas.
    what part of the ” someone who withstand (stood??) great harassment and stands with his dignity”
    did i misinterpret or present in any other manner that might hurt the professors dignity is a matter of great concern to me.
    do re read my views and pray do elaborate your mawkish concerns with my using the word “poor”.
    However ,i do believe in good conscience that there is a bigger truth we need to confront ..definitely far more important than school yard word play anyway.

  10. Dear lesley, I agree with you that there are many kinds of fundamentalist ideologies – including the ‘sickular’ variety and its censorship of naming certain fundamentalisms. I also find it strange that you ask me to elaborate on Dr Siras’s secular stance and say nothing about the sheer lack of secularism in the VCs action. As a feminist the first thing we fought about was that the person who had been violated would not be put in the dock but rather those who committed the abuse – terror and crime

  11. Dear jeebesh, dear Megha,

    I donot think jeebish is being mawkish about the word ‘poor’. The purported ‘suicide’ motive is part and parcel of ‘victim’ ideology. Murder is ruled out even before a post mortem is done but suicide is alleged though no note is found. Blood is found but it has nothig to do with the death. What is behind this psychology – to reduce Dr Siras into a ‘poor victim’.
    Thereby clearly not seeing that he chose to fight – came out publically

  12. Further he got a first major legal victory, speaks about devoting his life to the gay cause. So it is completely contradictory to presume suicide or even allege it before a major enquiry is not conducted. Also given the history that his house had already been broken into earlier and he had been filmed under threat. So I think we should be very careful about in any way colluding with the homophobic projection of victim psychology. I feel tremendous empathy for the pain that he must have gone through

  13. And yet he chose to respond to it in not just coming out but in taking the gay support and politely refusing the BJP offer. It is also ironic that no other party came in his favor unlike the rizwan episode.
    Therefore I think it is important to see and respect his choices and the inherent dignity in them. Surely we should be in empathy with his struggle and in rage towards those who directly or indirectly have taken the central stage of being the abusers

  14. Thanks to the Fact-Finding Committee, LGBT folks and allies working to ensure justice in this case. The news is unbelievably shocking – coming as it does in the wake of the April 1 court stay order.

  15. I would like to share the message I received on my facbook. I hope that we can ensure that justice be served
    Aditya Bondyopadhyay commented on your wall post:

    “Hi Giti, a through probe is now a must. Here are a few facts to ponder.
    1] it is reported that Dr Siras had asked for a compensation of some 30 Lacks due to his treatment by the AMU.
    2] The verdict of the Allahabad High Court was in any event a slap on the face of the AMU. It showed where the judges were leaning, and it is very likely that the compensation would have been allowed by the court.
    3] The AMU VC is already under a cloud for financial bunglings. He is also aware of his very public role in what happened to Dr Siras.
    4] If the compensation was allowed by the court, an extremely likely event, then the VC would have been directly held responsible for the blunder.
    5] The VC is a very powerful and autocratic force in AMU/Aligarh with pretty good contacts. He may be said to have a very clear motive in ensuring that the compensation never materializes.
    6] Suddenly a very normal and well adjusted Dr Siras, fresh from a whopping victory at the High Court, is found dead under very mysterious circumstances. Local police immediately claim suicide even before an autopsy is conducted.
    7] The VC who till yesterday was all about screaming “Siras is an Ogre” is all misty eyed and overwhelmed.

    YOU DO THE MATH…. “

  16. I think it is time for India media to take up this story like they have taken in other cases including Ruchika.

    But then it is not about woman who is murdered but a gay man – a status that is worse than being a woman in India. I am not sure if any media will take cudgels on his behalf and campaign for this case to be taken up seriously.

  17. throughout the past few months, whether to the media or in many private interactions with up and delhi activists, dr siras stayed far away from any mention of the words secular or fascist or fundamentalist. we may freely and justifiably accuse the vc and other officials of amu of fundamentalism, but we should take care not to make any such claim on dr siras’ behalf.

  18. An Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor of AMU
    Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association

    Dear Sir,
    You are perhaps aware that Professor Siras, a teacher at your university, and a poet, was found dead yesterday in his sad room where he was forced to move after being turned out of the university accommodation. It is immaterial whether he committed suicide or sustained a heart attack. You, sir, are the signatory on his death warrant. By condemning his choices of love and life, by publicly so shaming him, and by colluding with those who turned his most private, intimate moments into sordid reality TV, you effectively, pushed him to the brink of death.

    It is also not without irony, sir, that it is you, facing multiple charges of corruption and embezzlement who should be so morally exercised by an individual’s freedom (and legal right, one may add) to love whom one desires.

    Sincerely,
    Manisha Sethi and Adil Mehdi on behalf of Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

  19. here is a citation from the AMU mafia

    On the very day that the court directed AMU to reinstate Siras, the dean of its law faculty, M. Shabbir, told a university audience that homosexuality would be “fatal to the religious and cultural ethos and social equilibrium and morality”

    Any university getting central funds must respect the secular indian constitution. It cannot set its own religious policing and codification

  20. The fact that Dr. Siras was taped IN HIS OWN HOME is simply outrageous. Instead of him being hounded out of his job, the students who did this should have been suspended or even expelled. Now, I hope Dr. Siras’ heirs or someone (via a PIL) sues AMU — the university is not only complicit in this matter, but some faculty/administration members appear to have actively stoked hysteria and a mob mentality. Someone needs to tell AMU that it is a “minority institution” — NOT an institution that merely presents the pageant of “Muslimness”. The two are not the same.

  21. Dear Qalandar, I completely agree with you. Anjali from NAZ also in her open statement said that the university and its mafia coterie have been practicing
    virulent homophobia. If someone is caught, he is beaten, strippen and paraded naked. She also said that a woman professor had been suspended for 3 years – beaten up – simply for asking for more toilets for women and a separate chamber. There is also policing in terms of dress code – the list is endless

  22. The issue of homosexuality is no more existing. Now it is a case or murder (or a rare chance of suicide). Locking a door from outside is not a difficult job. May be police was careless or hiding this matter. Dr. Azis is responsible for the death of Dr. Siras. He must pay for it. He brought shame to Dr. Siras by his publicity and pushing him out of university accommodation.
    AMU is a not big university. It is only an education institution statrting from LKG to the PhD level.

    Its jurisdiction is only 25 kilometers from the mosque there.

    That makes starting simple centres or centres or special centres outside this 25 km jurisdiction. The delhi centre and the centres in the states are in contravention of this rule of 25 km jurisdiction.

  23. As Megha Ramaswamy suggests the death of Dr. Siras was caused by the HORRIFFIC MINDSET of the authorities of AMU, mainly Dr.
    P.K. Abdul Azis. As indicated by Mr. Aditya Bondyopadhyay and wanted by others, the death of Dr. Siras must be considered as murder till otherwise proved. He was not in a state or mood to die. Somebody caused him die making his existence impossible or he is murdered by somebody forced into his apartment (once it happened to take pictires). There were no report about any investigation on the intactness of his house. Report says only that the front door are opened forcebly. Door can also be closed from outside. There could be othere entry/exit points.

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