Aligarh Muslim University suspended Dr. Shrinivas Siras, the chairman of its Modern Indian Languages after a sting operation (allegedly funded by the university) yielded footage of the professor engaging in consensual homosexual sex in his official residence. The university cited “gross misconduct” as reason for suspension. The professor was due to retire in September of this year.
First, it’s not the professor but the university, the local television channel and anyone else, involved in the sting who are on the wrong side of the law. In this case, it’s almost irrelevant that homosexuality was decriminalized last year, because the evidence thereof was obtained through premeditated and calculated violation of the professor’s constitutional right to privacy (under the expanded scope of Article 21, right to life). His privacy was invaded twice: entering his home without consent; and filming him while having sex and distributing it for public consumption. The continuing inquiry into his private sexual life is continued invasion of privacy and the suspension is not just illegal discrimination based on his sexuality but also impinges on his right to livelihood.
There are other issues that bear consideration. The university and some news channels note the professor’s partner’s profession, “rickshaw puller”. Why is this detail relevant if not for its moral aspersion, the sneaky insinuation of promiscuity and/or prostitution given the class difference between the two men. Had his partner been some nondescript middle-class professional such as engineer or chartered accountant, would this detail been brought up so frequently? Obviously not.
In addition, our news media, which just till last week portrayed themselves as guardians of free speech and democracy have chosen not only to not take a firm stand on the issue but have also downplayed the news with minimal coverage. Constitutional rights have been trammeled but gone is the moral outrage that marked the coverage of the SRK’s standoff against Shiv Sena. The reason is obvious: the professor lacks SRK’s saleability and more importantly, the corporate interests that govern our news media cannot be certain of the viewer’s reaction, given the fact that a large section of Indians still frown upon homosexuality. Hence, instead of the clearly defined pro-SRK stand and ad nauseam coverage seen last week, we see detached and neutral reporting here (while it is agreed that the job of credible news media is to report, keeping the analysis/opinion confined to the appropriate pages/shows, the discussion is about the double standards of the media). It also bears mention that Shahrukh Khan is still waxing eloquent (diplomatically) about Sena’s misguided ways but is completely ignoring this issue even though he’s made a predictable routine of modern haha homosexual insinuations with his loyal sidekick, Karan Johar in movies, award shows and interviews.
The university’s decision to suspend the professor is in violation of both the court’s decision (which decriminalized consensual homosexual sex between adults) and its central tenet of inclusiveness. While, it is unfortunate that the professor himself has chosen not to fight against the university’s decision (instead leaving quietly to return to his hometown), the rightness of a fight is not based on the subject’s own willingness and/or ability to fight (e.g., the fight against Sati was not led by the thousands of women who perished in the tradition’s flames). The mark of a just and open society is how well it protects the interests of its minorities, not the powerful.