Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why police and judiciary have taken Siras's side

AMU's gay lecturer Ramchandra Siras, was first illegally filmed in a compromising position with another man, then suspended by AMU. Though reinstated by the Allahabad High Court, he was found dead -- in suspicious circumstances -- soon after. The police have now arrested those responsible for the filming and are pursuing AMU officials. In this opinion piece in today's The Indian Express (see here, with a powerful illustration) I argue that Officialdom's unprecedented, if belated reaction, has something to do with the Delhi High Court's judgment last year decriminalising homosexuality (discussed extensively on this blog here.)

[For a signed statement on the events surrounding his death, see here .]

5 comments:

Ajat said...

Dear Vinay,

I'm afraid I find your piece founded on intuition rather than logic. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it is an absurdly reductionist argument that you have made linking the arrest of the purported house-breakers to the Delhi High Court judgment. My reasons are as follows:
1. All that has transpired is an arrest. And an arrest is not as path-breaking as you make it sound. The two were arrested for forcibly entering the house of late professor and causing physical harm to him. If we start celebrating such routine arrests as extra-ordinary then there's something seriously wrong in our criminal justice system and perhaps that's the problem we need to solve urgently.
2. There is absolutely no evidence that you proffer to suggest that the atmosphere in the country created after the Naz Foundation judgment has anything at all to do with the police action. In fact, while the issue has gained a large amount of publicity, whether this has translated into diminishing polarity of opinions is quite doubtful. Nowhere in the actions of the police; in interviews given by them is there any suggestion that their step had anything to do with the reading down of a provision of criminal law by a court hundreds of miles away without territorial jurisdiction over them. It's a case of a death under suspicious circumstances and hence the investigation. Reading anything more into this, would require a far more thorough and detailed investigation and careful research, something that is in short supply in this article.

Finally my advice- intuition is a wholly unfounded basis for making, what in essence, is a logical inference. Of course you may say Justice Potter Stewart style that "(you) know it when (you) see it" in which case I bow to your better judgment and opinion. Otherwise it's best to perhaps research this matter a little bit deeper and then may be the real reasons for this swift and commendable actions of the police may actually be brought out. If it's then found that the Delhi High Court judgment had anything to do with it, I'll be happier than AP Shah.

Vinay Sitapati said...

Dear Ajat,

Since we are dealing in the realm of a hypothetical (the question is: would this have happened had not the Naz foundation case happened), we must unfortunately delve into the realm of speculation and guesswork (I prefer these words to 'intution', but if you insist). Please consider the following hypothetical questions, and their most probable answer:
1. Would Siras have filed an FIR had homosexuality been 'illegal'? We can only conjecture, but I think not.
2. Would the police have accepted such a complaint. If the past is anything to go by, absolutely not. They might instead have blackmailed or prosecuted Siras himself.
3. Would Siras have questioned the AMU decision to suspend him in the pre-Naz era. The answer is clearly no. Siras was suspended for 'immoral sexual activity' which is an accurate description of gay sex in the pre-NAz era.
4. Would the Allahabad HC have sided with Siras. Maybe (if they believed the privacy argument trumped his own illegal activity). But there is a good chance they might have declined for reason no.3 .
5. Would the police have arrested the house-breakers and charged AMU faculty in the pre-Naz era. This is a difficult question to answer since Siras's death was clearly the immediate motivation. But if you are following this case, you will know that a smear campaign is being launched against Siras and his resort to 'prostitution'. That narrative might have withstood his death. But this is, as you argue, perhaps in the realm of intuition.

Proud2bGay said...

Dear Vinay,
I must congratulate you on a piece well written.
In the pre-Naz era the "Siras sting operation" would have hurt the gay community even more. Journalists would have fallen over themselves describing the "despicable acts" by Prof. Siras. Tens of thousands of gay men in the closet would get to read a corner article in some newspaper which would give a brief lurid description of “acts of perversion”.
I remember the Doordarshan days of 1980s when AIDS had first raised its ugly head. DD National TV had conducted a series of short interviews and got a doctor to stand in front of the camera and intone – “Yeh sab koo karm karne vaalon ko yeh bimaari lagti hai” (all these people indulging in bad behaviour get this disease). Homosexuality was castigated as immoral by the religious zealots hence the Indian medical profession castigated it as pathological. DD National was merely following the norm. I can just say that it brought feelings of horror in me as a teen. I knew I was right in feeling proud to be gay, but somehow, the legal and medical professions (in India) didn’t seem to think so.
In the 1980s the nearest I could get to a positive line on homosexuality in the print media was “…tens of thousands of gays and lesbians marched in the Annual Pride Parade at San Francisco”.
Today when I read your piece I feel that we have come a long way – an Indian journalist actually writing a positive piece on homosexuality!
If people like you don’t make a noise about the arrest, the attention will shift and this case would not get the impetus that it demands.
The very fact that you are linking homophobia with this case will change the way people (and the police) will look at this case. It will also help the lawyers in court argue for a stiff penalty for the accused.
Do continue to report on this case Vinay, we need more reports such as you.

Uditi said...

Dear Vinay,

As always, the clarity and conviction of your writing is commendable. When an innocent and by all reports so far, completely unassuming and private man, is hounded to death as an 'easy target' due to his homosexuality, my reaction as an Indian, and academic and as a queer woman was a mixture of anger and despair. Thanks for your objective analysis, and for pointing out that while real change might take time to come through, and while it is no easier to be gay and Indian now than it was before, the rules of the game are indeed changing.

There has always been reason to fight for dignity, but the ruling on 377 now gives the gay community the ability to fight without being immediately arrested as criminals.

Keep up the good work,

Uditi

PS: Dear Ajat, the Indian criminal justice system, especially the police, IS a completely broken, hierarchical and politicised system. Every kid in the gali, and every Indian driver, and every respectable middle-class family who would rather look for 'contacts' than walk into a police station knows that. How did you manage to miss it??

Ajat said...

Dear Uditi,

I "missed" it because it has little to do with Vinay's argument. Consequentialist reasoning works on evidence and not speculation. I certainly support the police action but find no reason to celebrate it, as Vinay does. Celebrating routine acts can only lead to systemic complacency and a faux sense of achievement, both of which I believe, are best avoided.