In Memoriam, Srinivas Ramachandra Siras

Posted by sepoy on April 11, 2010 · 3 mins read

Feb 18, 2010. Aligarh Muslim University professor suspended for being gay.

LUCKNOW: An Aligarh Muslim University professor, on the verge of retirement, was suspended after some students set up cameras to catch him having consensual sex with a rickshaw-puller in his campus home, and sent the video film to university authorities. Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, reader and chairman of Modern Indian Languages at AMU, now says he won't challenge his suspension and would voluntarily leave.

Apr 1, 2010. The great divide.

Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras has won the first round of the legal battle. On April 1, an Allahabad High Court Bench comprising Justices Sunil Ambawani and Kashi Nath Pandey stayed the suspension of the Aligarh Muslim University professor against whom disciplinary action had been taken following reports of his involvement in a homosexual relationship. Advocate Anand Grover who represented Siras said: “The stay order demonstrates that an individual with a different sexual orientation cannot be treated in a fashion devoid of justice.”

Apr 8, 2010. Aligarh gay professor found dead, may have killed self.

LUCKNOW: Less than two months after he was suspended and hounded out of his campus home on charges of having consensual homosexual act with a rickshaw-puller, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) teacher Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras was found dead in mysterious circumstances at his rented single-room accommodation in Quarti police circle of Aligarh.

Apr 9, 2010. Gay prof was known as a literary genius

NAGPUR: "I am shocked and deeply hurt by his death. He was a good associate and was well-known in the literary circles. May his soul rest in peace,'' said Poet Grace. Like him there are hundreds of fans of Prof Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras in Nagpur deeply shaken by his sudden death. Grace recalled Siras, a resident of Coffee House Square in Dharampeth, as well-known in the literary circles for his poems. The deceased professor was in the city and had just returned to Aligarh on Monday.

April 12, 2010. Justice for Dr. Siras.

We condemn the events leading to the persecution and eventual death of Dr. Srinivas Ramachandra Siras, Reader and Chair of Modern Indian Languages at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). His death is the result of the harassment he faced, including the unlawful and unethical suspension he faced on account of his being gay. Dr Siras had to undergo trauma, fear, harassment and humiliation in and by his own University and all actors involved must be held culpable in his death.


biryanilady | April 11, 2010

Tears. My comment is weeping.

Qalandar | April 11, 2010

I was shocked to hear of his death, probably because an interview with him on NDTV was the first I had heard of this, and I can still hear his voice, see his goofy smile. I hope his heirs/others sue AMU.

Jean-Paul, Canada | April 11, 2010

My sincere sympathy to Dr. Siras' family, loved ones and friends. This death was brought about by by unethical and criminal motivations, and Dr. Siras was an innocent man who certainly did not deserve this.

omar | April 12, 2010

Very sad. Did the rickshaw puller get away to an anonymous existence or is he in some kind of trouble too?

Quizman | April 12, 2010

Thanks for the post. R.I.P Kafila's take is here.

C M Naim | April 14, 2010

A demand for probes:

Nikolai | April 14, 2010

"A research scholar in the department of mass communication said, “It is well known that the mastermind of the Siras sting operation is associated with the LIU [Local Intelliegence Unit]. Students who are part of LIU enjoy the support of the university higher-ups—right from the V-C to the Proctor.” A research scholar in Siras's department of Modern Indian Languages, who too is an 'informer' for LIU, is also said to have played a crucial role in the sting operation. This student is said to have collected information about his “activities” and passed it on to the LIU. Proctor Md Zubair Khan confirmed: “There is such a proctorial team on the university. You can call it a local intelligence unit where students give information about campus activities and unwanted elements. There are watch and ward staff who are salaried employees. We also have students — proctoral monitors and deputy proctoral monitors — who act as campus monitors. The aim is to maintain law and order in the university.” On the sting operation on Siras, Zubair said, “The LIU team had nothing to do with it.” Tariqul Islam, a reader in the department of philosophy, said: “There was some kind of surveillance of Siras's residence at the behest of the university. It is mentioned in the Proctor's report that he reached Siras's residence after being informed by LIU guards.” “At AMU, you have sleuths in plainclothes snooping around, spying on you all the time,” he added. "' is this a university or an ISI subsidiary? May Mr. Siras rest in peace.

Nikolai | April 14, 2010

quotes above from India Express:

swapang | April 16, 2010

This turn of events greatly saddens me. AMU is my alma mater and I owe a lot to her. However the sheer viciousness with which the intezamiya persecuted Prof Siras is extremely shocking and troubling. They obviously are experts in hounding someone to death. Shame!

omar | April 16, 2010

Does the AMU's peculiar status and history as a "Muslim" university (whatever it is) make it easier to have this fascist sounding LIU thingy there? or do many (or some) other Indian Universities have similar "intelligence units"? The letters LIU are uncomfortably close to FIU (field intelligence unit) which is the intelligence arm of various military formations in both India and Pakistan (and in Pakistan at least, has a reputation for torture and intimidation in some cantonement areas). Do the "elite" IITs have similar units in place? Or is the above story blowing it out of proportion somehow?

Ajit | April 16, 2010

Omar, until this incident, no one knew AMU had an LIU either. It is impossible to say with certainty that the IITs do not have any equivalent of this - after all, even at the AMU it was an ad hoc sort of thing. However, given the general sensibility prevailing at the IITs it is hard to believe they have people whose sole job is to run around exposing incidence of gay behaviour.

Qalandar | April 16, 2010

From a relative who had studied at AMU nearly three decades ago, they even had folks who would knock on dorm rooms on Fridays to try and get people to go to Friday prayers.

singhs | April 17, 2010

@ Qalandar, They used to (and stil) l have tablighis who go room to room in hostels on thursdays as well.

null | April 18, 2010

@Qalandar what's wrong with that? AMU hostels still have (largely ineffective) prayer monitors - a legacy from the era of Sir Syed . Personally I don't see anything wrong with this too - what does the Muslim in AMU stand for then ? Also all muslim students in AMU schools, and Class XI have a subject of islamic theology -where mufti kifayatullah's book Taalem ul islam was used as a textbook and later a Sirah of the Prophet (SAW) and all the four Khulafa Rashidun (RA) are taught.

null | April 19, 2010

Almost every Hall has a prayer hall or even a masjid Tablighi Ijtemas are held on sunday in the University Mosque There is an extended break on Fridays and timetable class periods are smaller . In Ramadan also timings change.

Qalandar | April 19, 2010

Null: whether or not there is anything wrong with it depends upon how aggressive/intrusive these chaps are (although I personally do not think the "M" in the title stands for madrassa or theological education, so much as to give "M"uslim students higher education opportunities that they otherwise might not have -- but I am not very familiar with the history of the college, so will defer to otehrs on this). Of course, there is other stuff (such as not allowing female students in the libraries, I believe there was some news coverage of this) that, if true, would unquestionably be wrong in my book...

omar | April 19, 2010

I think what is wrong is exactly what is wrong with orthodox Islam in general. The version that became enshrined as "standard Islam" (at least in Sunni Islam) is clearly fascistic and includes built in mechanisms (blasphemy and apostasy laws for example) that prevent any criticism. This sets up a situation where certain views (views that MOST Muslims do not adhere to in practice) acquire automatic legitimacy (knocking on doors to wake up sleeping kids for fajr is OK, but knocking on doors to say this should stop is not, and so on..). The point is not to say that some other fascist force should beat them up and change their minds. But it is necessary to raise enough of a fuss to get them to accept that while they have the right to any interpretation they like, they should get used to a world where others may have different ideas. To cut down on unnecessary arguments, i will humbly request that responses should avoid the terms orientalism, metropole and Edward Said. Discussions about why fascism is a western political term irrelevant to "us" are permitted but every such response must suggest an alternative pejorative term or will be ignored. Just kidding intellectuals, just kidding. blast away with Edward sahib's guns or anyone you want. Let a hundred flowers bloom. Cheers.

Qalandar | April 19, 2010

Re: “The version that became enshrined as “standard Islam” (at least in Sunni Islam) is clearly fascistic and includes built in mechanisms (blasphemy and apostasy laws for example) that prevent any criticism.” I don't think “fascistic” is a useful term in this context; used to describe any belief system or political arrangement that is bad/intolerant/repressive etc., “fascistic” loses all specificity. Akbar's Mughal court, the Sun King's Versailles, Mussolini's Italy, Franco-led Spain, and the House of Saud all “include[]d built in mechanisms … that prevent[ed] any criticism.” [Aside: given that the self-image of Islam, as reflected in the canonical texts, is such as to place certain questions beyond dispute (for instance, on the subject of the resurrection I remember a lecture given by Harold Bloom where he called the Quran the “most convinced book on earth”; he was being complimentary, inasmuch as the text's conviction was for Bloom itself a(n) (especially powerful) literary mode), perhaps the more interesting question is why this “self-image” has not only co-existed with, but engendered, such a heterodoxy of practice/belief/ritual? And, given these histories, to the extent one takes seriously the notion that the “fascistic” and modern political Islam are close enough to kiss, perhaps we need to look at other genealogies than the purely theological ones; mindful of the terms you have placed beyond the pale, I see that “modernity”, “standardizing political projects”, “nationalism”, “colonialism”, and others are nevertheless available. AMU itself was founded by one of the original (since we are using anachronistic terms) brown sahibs…]

omar | April 19, 2010

I agree entirely. When i wrote the word "fascist", I knew I was going to get into trouble, so I covered myself appropriately. I joked about brother Edward because I meet a lot of highly educated types who seem to believe that Edward bahadur has proven for all times to come that evil was born in Europe and every non-European sin is the result of "orientalism" (OK, i exaggerate, but only slightly), so I wanted the brother out of the way before we go at it. I think heterodoxy and orthodoxy are BOTH present and it is not really a true paradox in the sense that there is no a priori reason why they cannot both exist in the "same religion". Orthodoxy may wish to believe that it is so great there is no room for heterodoxy, but people are people, they tend to wander and get ideas. I think ANY religion that claims to be a complete way of life, perfectly communicated in a perfect book, is going to have people who take those claims to their logical conclusion. But since there actually IS no such religion (i.e. perfect, complete, unchanging) therefore what will actually happen is that multiple individuals and groups will develop mutliple orthodoxies, all claiming to be perfect and complete. And good ideas are good ideas. Once somebody figures out that killing apostates is a good way of keeping defections down, then everyone from the Mafia to Salafist Islam is going to take up the idea. Same with blasphemy laws. From the point of view of the ulama, they work very well. Western liberals claim they inhibit free thougth and intellectual development, but then, who cares what they think. and so to run.

Salman | April 19, 2010

Re: "Discussions about why fascism is a western political term irrelevant to “us” are permitted but every such response must suggest an alternative pejorative term or will be ignored." Check out the following discussion about the term "Islamofascism" {{site.baseurl}}archives/homistan/paleo-talibothra_found.html/comment-page-1#comment-157431

omar | April 19, 2010

And I dont think Edward Bahadur himself really believed evil was invented in Europe in 1453, but he is dead and his followers live on. Btw, the best defence of Edward Bahadur is the one I heard from a friend in San Francisco: Bhai Edward was a Palestinian nationalist. The Israelis are supported by Western power. He decided to undermine the intellectual foundations of that power and mashallah, it worked. I dont actually buy that, but who knows.....

Salman | April 19, 2010

Omar, dude, you seem to hang out with all sorts of colorful characters from Tariq Ali worshippers to dogmatic Saidists that I thought only existed only in the imagination of Said's harshest dogmatic critics. Fun!!!!

Omar | April 19, 2010

Salman sahib, they are very real. And they get very upset if you make fun of brother Edward....

Salman | April 19, 2010

hmmmmm, Sadist Saidists?

Aligarian | April 19, 2010

Two video journalists, who allegedly conducted a sting operation on the gay Aligarh Muslim University professor, were today arrested here on charges of forcibly entering his house on February 8 and causing physical harm to him. The two -- Adil Murtaza and Sirat -- were named in the FIR filed by 62-year-old AMU professor Srinivas Ramchander Siras after he was caught on camera with a rickshaw-puller at his official residence here.

Aligarian | April 19, 2010

Proctors Office exist in most Indian Universities; and since the administrative system at AMU, and the concept of Halls of residence, Provost etc. are modeled after Oxford University(AMU had many British professors in 1920-30's, who were instrumental in establishing it's Physics dept and Humanities faculty), hence there is Proctor Office. Here are clippings from Oxford univ webpage, about Proctor Office. Part of the Proctors' role is to investigate possible breaches of University disciplinary codes and to bring charges against students accused of infringing these codes. The Proctors can also take action in cases where students have been charged with or convicted of serious criminal offences, and where students are being banned from access to University premises or services. The Proctors' Office is the administrative base for three senior officers of the University who are elected annually by colleges. The Senior Proctor and Junior Proctor make sure that the University operates according to its statutes. As well as being members of key decision-making committees, they deal with university (as distinct from college) student discipline complaints about university matters the running of University examinations They also carry out ceremonial duties, e.g. at degree ceremonies. The Proctors and Assessor are supported by two teams of staff. There is a secretariat, headed by the Clerk to the Proctors, and a body of full-time and part-time Proctors' Officers.

Aligarian | April 19, 2010

Since I am a graduate of AMU, I would like to clear some issues. Though it's name is Aligarh Muslim University, it doesn't discriminate on basis of religion, and in Medical and Engineering courses there may be more non-muslims in a particular batch, and in Arts faculty there may be more muslims. No one is forced to live or behave in any supposed "islamic" way.Though it has some matters of etiquette (tahzeeb) which one is expected to follow, for eg. you cannot go out of your Hall of residence in kurta pyjama (you need to have a sherwani over it), you cannot go out in flip flops, an elected member of university student union cannot ride a bicycle etc. In XI-XII standard there is course of Sunni theology, but there is also Shia theology, and for non muslims a course on Ancient Indian History. The syllabus of sunni theology doesn't recommend any specific text, rather individual topics like pre-islamic arabia,jang-e-badr, brief life sketch of prophet etc ( a pet question in exams was,"elaborate on lessons for muslims from battle of badr and battle of trench ). Though Tablighi jamaat is quite strong in campus, it has an equally strong leftist lobby led by famous historian Irfan Habib, and the majority doesn't have any such affiliation. In last 25-30 years no student with direct affiliation with tabligh or jamat-e-islami has won any student body election (some of them had been member in the past but resigned few years before election), though a student was elected president in 2002-03 who had links to AISA (the student wing of extreme leftist party CPI-ML).

Qalandar | April 19, 2010

Re: " elected member of university student union cannot ride a bicycle etc." I don't understand-- Why can't a union-member ride a bike? Is the idea that walking is better, or is (s)he supposed to take another mode of transport, like a car etc.?

null | April 19, 2010

Aligarian is right in every respect I am also a recent graduate of AMU - I even studied in AMU affiliated school - Minto Circle. @Qalandar Aligarian has already cleared many issues. As I said there are so called prayer monitors but few take this seriously. There is no reservation for muslims at AMU . It is not as if muslims are not studying in other institutions. My parents sent me to study AMU so that I could live in a muslim environment where allowances are made for religious practise Classes end early on Friday - so that I one could go home and have ghusl and then go for Jumah prayers , Periods shorter in Ramadan etc.Masjids at walking distances etc.. Girls could wear Burqa and even Niqab in College although that very few girls do so is altogether different matter. I could learn Urdu in school - I believe there are very few English medium schools in UP where urdu is taught. Baitbaazi - a sort of antakshari - where urdu shairs are used instead of film songs. Who told you ladies are not allowed in library ? Undergraduate girl students study in the Womens College which has its own library. PG Students use the University library. The question was travel arrangements for girl students from the library to thier Halls of Residence in the evening and night. God I miss AMU

Aligarian | April 19, 2010

@ Qalander: there isn't much to understand in these etiquettes, these aren't any codified rules, but are generally referred to as "traditions". Yes, walking is preferred to riding a bicycle, though they can ride on a rickshaw or pillion on a scooter/motorcycle. Though down the ages many have challenged these traditions and many student union candidates have refused to wear a shervani etc. My point was that there are no mullahs there forcing you to live your life according to their diktats. It has a very secular and multi cultural atmosphere. In late 1980's the university Soccer team reached finals of National inter university finals (a rarity) and there was just one Indian national in whole team; the rest were from Iran, Syria, Jordan and Ethiopia . Similarly AMU team defeated Benares Hindu Univ( a traditional rival,but there are annual competition between the 2 in for communal harmony) in 1991, in Basket ball with help of two Somalian forwards who were both 7 feet plus. I did my XI-XII, MBBS and MD from AMU, and in my class there were about 45 girls (in class of 100) and hardly 2 used to wear a head scarve and many used to wear jeans etc . There was an Annual Sports and cultural meet where girls participated in singing, sports, literary and theater activities, and on some years we had national meet with teams from Delhi, Madras Lucknow Medical colleges etc participating and living with us on campus.

Qalandar | April 19, 2010

Thanks for the information Aligarian and null. The media pieces I remembered reading way back when included:

null | April 20, 2010

" don't understand— Why can't a union-member ride a bike? Is the idea that walking is better, or is (s)he supposed to take another mode of transport, like a car etc.?" To be honest I don't know why that was so. I used to think that student leaders (clad in de regur) sherwanis usually rode pillion on bikes/scooters because it was beneath their dignity to ride a cycle or drive thier vehicle by themselves !

omar | April 20, 2010

The whole dignity thing is very Oxbridge (old Oxbridge; they have fallen far since those glory days) and raises waves of empire-nostalgia in my mind (when men were men and Brittania ruled the waves). Of course, Sir Syed Islamized the routines appropriately, but that too is very Oxbridge. Only someone who had truly imbibed the spirit of the empire could do so (and I mean that in a positive sense; I dont have any truck with the currently fashionable tendency to use empire as a negative term). My grandfather went to Aligarh on a scholarship and was sometimes unable to afford even the train fare back to Punjab. But he wore his Aligarh kit and sat in first class and no bloody Anglo-Indian ticket checker ever dared to ask him for his ticket. I too miss the good old days...

Qalandar | April 20, 2010

Re: "I dont have any truck with the currently fashionable tendency to use empire as a negative term..." Let's leave academic fashion, jargon, whatever, aside -- as a substantive matter, is it that you see the positive aspects of "empire" overlooked these days, or is it that you regard "empire" as a morally neutral phenomenon, and that the air of condemnation/critique has no place in histories of empire?

omar | April 20, 2010

Qalandar, I was just joking. I do find the word "empire" thrown around rather more than seems justified (referring to a supposed American empire, but frequently used for entities that have a rather tenuous connection to any actually existing empire, and always left nameless so that the writer cannot be pinned down to specifics, leaving the door open for other interpretations, most of them equally mushy), but in this case, I was joking. I think the British empire was many things, some good, some bad (by whatever standards we prefer to apply), some neutral, some that could not be justified in the good old days and cannot be justified today. It was, after all, an empire. But as I said, I was just having fun with the regulars. I hope no one minds. My grandfather went to Aligarh and took advantage of the association in some trains, but seemed to move further and further away from North Indian Islamicate aristocratic notions of "tehzeeb" as he grew older. He had a very overdeveloped bullshit detector. My father joined the Pakistan military academy and came home smartly dreassed and with a copy of TIME magazine and was rather ostentatiously reading it in my Dada's very rustic home. Dada asked him what he was reading and he says he said with some pride "TIME". Dada skimmed through it, then noticed the price on the cover. He asked my dad "did you actually pay for this?". Abu somewhat indignantly replied "of course, it costs 1 rupee" (or whatever). At which dada reportedly laughed and said "Really? you paid for it? I thought this was a freebie they hand out at the embassy". He also couldnt figure out what people saw in that snob Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Aligarian | April 20, 2010

"Iftikhar Baloch, an environmental science professor at University of Punjab, had expelled members of the group for violent behavior. The retribution left him bloodied and nearly unconscious, and it united his fellow professors, who protested with a nearly three-week strike that ended Monday". NYT This incident happened three weeks ago but it hardly created any headlines, or outpouring of support in blogsphere, and it takes NYT to bring it to masses. Is it that liberal blogs and it's readers care more for Dr Siras because of his sexual orientation. Dr Siras has all of my sympathies, and he was victim of a calculated plot and the guilty should be punished. But it is a fact that in last 10 years atleast 2 AMU professors have been murdered by land Mafia when they were trying to fight against lans encroachment and there was not a single tear for them in national or international media.

Qalandar | April 21, 2010

Re: " last 10 years atleast 2 AMU professors have been murdered by land Mafia when they were trying to fight against lans encroachment and there was not a single tear for them in national or international media." Those deaths are tragic -- but there is nothing about them that is AMU-specific, as, sadly, they are representative of a general reality of Indian life. But the idea that a quasi-official or authorized plot should be used to humiliate and embarrass a faculty member, in order to police a vision of what the university should be, IS AMU-specific. The latter tells us something about AMU; the former, something about India (and is presumably covered as such: the AMU-deaths might not have gotten much coverage, but murders by this or that mafia routinely get a lot of coverage in the Indian press). I do not mean to sound cavalier, but am simply suggesting that not all criminality means the same.

Qalandar | April 21, 2010

PS -- I also don't mean to suggest that Siras' sexual orientation has nothing to do with the coverage. Of course it does: that orientation (especially in the context of a faculty position at a minority-institution) makes this a more unusual case, and hence, more newsworthy. And then there are other possible agendas as well: the self-image of the English language media as socially liberal and "modern" is engaged by this story in a very notable way; as is the fact that the villain of the piece is AMU -- enabling various media outlets to deflect right-wing claims that they have double standards when it comes to Hindu intolerance as opposed to Muslim intolerance, by vigorously criticizing AMU ("freeing" them, the paranoiacs might say, to further indulge the double standard) :-)... But, quite frankly, the fact that no-one has pure motives is surely not any reason to avoid taking AMU to task -- especially as AMU does not appear to be sorry about the whole affair...

Aligarian | April 21, 2010

If the same thing happens at BHU or any other place it doesn't get same coverage, just because it's A"Muslim"U, and Aligarh is only 130 km from Delhi; all the TV teams easily descended on it. The handling of matter by AMU authorities hasn't earned them any Brownie points, but majority of students interviewed were against what happened with Dr Siras, and how his privacy was violated. But still most of the allegations are speculative and all theories in the matter are pure conjecture, and we will have to let the investigation finish. Till 3 months before this incident, homosexuality was a punishable and non bailable offence in India, and then the famous High Court ruling came (but law itself hasn't been changed and the ruling can be challenged in Supreme Court), and in this short period the liberal press and blogs believe that the thinking of people in mofussil towns is going to change. The other professors died while trying to save university land, and yet they didn't get the same coverage as this case. There was the sexual orientation of the professor, plus that he caught with a rickshaw puller had not only a sensational aspect to it, it also appealed to Liberal press through out the world, so everyone from Aaj Tak, Outlook to western media and blogs jumped on it.

Qalandar | April 22, 2010

There's much I don't disagree with in your last response, but I think you are completely wrong to say that had this happened at BHU, it wouldn't have gotten coverage. I think it certainly would have, for some of the reasons discussed earlier in this thread. Especially because the organized gay-rights movement in India is disproportionately urban and relatively well-heeled and media savvy, they will certainly be ahead of the (media) curve as compared to the BHUs of the world. And quite frankly, without the "Muslim" angle, we would likely have seen even MORE criticism from (at least the English-language) media (in short, it's the "gay" angle, rather than the Muslim angle, that has made this a "hot" issue). [The Hindi media, my sense is, has hardly taken AMU to task in the same way; because the support for gay rights in the audiences for those newspapers/channels is often not there, it is not an issue that IMO has as much salience for those audiences.]

ക്വിയര്‍ പ്രൈഡ് | ഉപ്പുമാങ്ങ | July 01, 2010

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anonymous | November 25, 2010

sad sad.... R I P