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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 15th April 2016 > DOWN AND OUTED IN INDIA


The mysterious suicide of a gay Indian professor fired after he was caught on film with another man When a gay professor at one of India’s most prestigious universities was found dead two months after vigilantes barged into his house with a video camera and caught him in a tryst with a bicycle rickshaw driver, police concluded it was suicide. He had been suspended from his teaching duties for “immoral sexual activity” and publicly outed in a society deeply prejudiced against gay people, and there was poison in his blood.

But activists and former colleagues of Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a professor of Indian literature at Aligarh Muslim University in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, are puzzled by a few odd details of his death—his cellphone was missing, his ATM card was used either just before or just after his death, and while the room where his body was found was locked from the inside, the front door of the house was bolted and padlocked on the outside. What’s more, he had just been reinstated at the university by virtue of a court order, and he had found friendship and support among those fighting for gay rights in India.

RAINBOW INDIA: Gay rights activists are hoping a film based on the story of a closeted professor who killed himself after being outed will further understanding and rights for India’s LGBT community.

Even if the official explanation of suicide is correct, the more than five-year-old case has become one of the most prominent tests of India’s official and unoffi-cial intolerance of homosexuality in recent years. And while the Indian legal system failed Siras, his story may wind up doing more for gay rights than India’s usually liberal courts. For that, thank Bollywood.

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