Civil rights organisations and human rights activists gathered here in the Capital on Monday to demand a fair and impartial investigation by the police into the death of Aligarh Muslim University gay professor S. R. Siras who died under mysterious circumstances this past week.
Protesting against the series of events that allegedly led to persecution and eventual death of Dr. Siras, AMU professor Tariq Islam said: “His privacy was invaded and his human rights were denied. After being ordered to vacate his campus accommodation by AMU authorities, with great difficulty he found another rented accommodation. His promotion was also given a miss.”
According to Dr. Islam, teachers and students at AMU were feeling guilty about not supporting Dr. Siras enough. “There is a greater game involved. The cell phone he used is still missing,” he added.
Deepti, a member of the non-government organisation Saheli, added: “When Dr. Siras initially went to complain to the police, they refused to lodge FIRs against the university authorities who he had named.”
Speaking about the need to put pressure on the police to conduct a fair investigation, activist Gautam Bhan said: “Given the police record in this regard, public pressure has to be put on them so that they conduct the investigation in a transparent and efficient manner.”
People' Union for Civil Liberties secretary Kavita Srivastava emphasised the need for the protest movement to move to Aligarh.
A joint statement issued by civil society organisations states that Dr. Siras had to undergo trauma, fear, harassment and humiliation in his own university and all those involved should be held culpable for his death.
Demands in the statement include appointment of a committee by AMU to look into instances of moral policing, suspension of the AMU Vice-Chancellor, identification and suspension of those who unlawfully entered Dr. Siras' home and posthumous reinstatement of Dr. Siras with full benefits to his next of kin.
Demands have also been made to make public the post-mortem report, take action against the Aligarh Police officers who did not register the FIRs, and against the journalists who intruded into Dr. Siras' home.
A five-member “independent fact finding committee” consisting of members from the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore, Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives, Saheli Women's Resource Centre and an independent activist visited Aligarh and interacted with Dr. Siras, the AMU authorities, faculty, students, those allegedly involved in making the sting video and the police. The report of the committee was released this past week.
Based on these interactions, the committee concluded that the manner in which Dr. Siras' case had unfolded “points an unerring finger at the complicity of the university authorities in the various illegal actions taken against Dr. Siras.”
According to the findings, the persons involved in the sting would never have dared to proceed with their actions in the university premises without a go-ahead from the AMU authorities.
The university authorities had also tried to drum up support for their actions and to “shame and silence” Dr. Siras by “converting what should have been an internal affair into a public issue”.
The motive for the university participating in such an act could be attributed to “the fact that the Vice-Chancellor was coming under enormous pressure due to the inquiry set up by the President of India after instances of financial bungling and mismanagement came to light”. The committee also concluded that by taking action against Dr. Siras the university authorities had wanted to bolster their own conservative credentials as upholders of a certain morality.