Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, reader and chairman of Modern Indian Languages at AMU, is no more. He embarked on his journey for the heavenly abode on 7 April, although his death is not what any other mortal would desire.
This romantic poet was found lying on the bed in his private apartment outside the university after police broke open the door which was locked from inside.
I suspect not many people in this nation (and abroad) knew of this 62 year old man until a month or two ago. His has been the case of bad publicity which brought him into the public domain.
Professor Siras was suspended from the university and asked to vacate his quarters in the campus on accounts of gross misconduct which was against the spirit of the institution. His crime- he was filmed by a group of students while having consensual sex. The students had illegally planted cameras in his house and later produced the videos in front of the AMU authorities and got him evicted.
The great man was extremely dignified in accepting the charges framed against him and solemnly resigned to his fate and packed his bags off the campus. “Let them say what they want to. I am not going to offer any clarification. You don’t have to abuse back if someone abuses you. I am already on the verge of retirement and, therefore, would rather be gone than to stretch the issue,” was his reaction to the slander on his character.
His resolute and spirit and faith in truth took him to the doors of justice and he filed a petition challenging the suspension order in Allahabad High Court.
It is but ironical that this crusader got the Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad’s award for his 2002 collection, Grass Under My Feet. “The poem, after which the book is named, talks of the loneliness of a man looking at the full moon, yearning for his lover. It could be called male-dominated poetry,” said Siras in an interview. “The full moon represents a gay lover, all poems are about the love of one man for another.”
A division bench comprising Justice Sunil Ambawani and Justice Kashi Nath Pandey of the Allahabad High Court passed a stay order on the suspension order issued by the AMU, on 1 April. “It is constitutionally wrong to intrude into anybody’s private life or action,” said the bench of judges.AMU authorities claimed that they had revoked the suspension order following the High court ruling and asked Dr Siras to resume work on April 5. Unfortunately, he might not have been living to hear this news.
Fresh controversy has arisen over the death of Dr Siras. While the police were quick to label the death as suicide, a preliminary medical report suggested he died due to poisoning. “His death was not due to natural causes. Traces of poison were found in his stomach,” said Maan Singh Chauhan, SP (City), Aligarh. “There were blue spots on the body, his nails were blue.” The Aligarh Muslim University Teacher’s Union has shown solidarity with the deceased in the hour of mourning. They have demanded probe into the validity of the suspension order. Also, the illegal filming of sexual activity of a faculty received flak from the AMUTU. The students responsible should be brought to book, they demanded. An online petition has already been launched by Integrated Network of Sexual Minorities (INFOSEM), the largest network of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in India to urge the President of India for a judicial inquiry into the death of Prof. Siras and suspension of AMU’s Vice Chancellor.
Finally, Uttar Pradesh Police, which had initially refused to register an FIR in the case, had to act on the orders of a court to register FIRs against four Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) officials and three journalists for breaching the privacy of the professor. At the same time, refuting the suicide theory, the brother of Prof. Siras said, “He had come to Nagpur on April 2, and was in a good mood. There was no reason for him to commit suicide?”
Dr Siras in his last days of life received support from all quarters. Gay rights groups, Human rights activists, teachers, scholars; intellectuals came out in his support in large numbers. Social networking sites flooded with messages and blogs showering solidarity with the “lone crusader”.
Most students at the Aligarh Muslim University have condemned Siras’ suspension. “If they punished him according to Sharia, then they should remember that Sharia forbids anyone from peeking into someone else’s private life, so all those who made an intrusion in his life should be punished,” said a university student.
Several such messages did rounds in the web world as well the “real” world. Undoubtedly, the verdict was clear. From the well known face in the celeb world to the anonymous guy on the web, encouraging words of sympathy and support rained on Dr. Siras. He was the new mascot for gay liberty in India.
The sad demise of Professor came as a shock for people all over the world, especially the manner in which his dead body was found. Whether he did commit suicide or was murdered, only time will tell. But one thing is clear- many men, who had been the victims of prejudice against them just because of their sexuality, drew inspiration from the “slain hero”. And he will continue to live in their hearts.