Prof SM Ravindranath, Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University based in the troubled Tamil district of Batticaloa, was kidnapped by an unidentified group while on a visit to Colombo on Friday.
University sources told Hindustan Times that Prof Ravindranath was kidnapped at about 1 pm while he was on his way to a meeting.
His family promptly filed a complaint with the police, alleging abduction.
This is the first case of a VC being abducted in Sri Lanka.
Conflict between Northern and Eastern Tamils
Many see the kidnapping in the context of the on-going conflict between the Tamils of the Northern districts and the Tamils of the Eastern districts of Sri Lanka, which got accentuated after the LTTE commander Col Karuna split from the parent organisation, and began espousing the cause of the Eastern Tamils through armed action.
Ravindranath's kidnappers, sources feel, may be representing the Eastern Tamils, and wanting to get rid of Ravindranath who is a man from Kokkuvil in the northern district of Jaffna.
A well-known agricultural expert, Ravindranath had been under threat from this shadowy group earlier too, and had resigned about three months ago.
But his resignation was not accepted. On the advice of the government of Sri Lanka, he was functioning from Colombo instead of Batticaloa.
Some university sources, however, said that the kidnapping could well have been done by a group with some other interest.
"It is likely that people wanting out of turn promotions may be trying to get Dr Ravindranath out by foul means," a source said.
Ravindranath was a stickler for rules, the source said.
Troubled universities of North East Lanka
The three universities in the war-torn North East Sri Lanka are unsafe for everybody, from the Vice Chancellor down to the students.
Dr Ismail, VC of the Muslim-dominated South Eastern University based in Oluvil, was shot at by a disgruntled employee.
The VC of Jaffna University, Dr Ratnajeevan Hoole, could not go to Jaffna to function as the VC, because the LTTE was threatening him.
A Dean and some Professors of the Eastern University have fled the country out of fear.
Non-Tamil students, allotted seats in the universities of the North-East, have felt unsafe and sought transfers, with the result, universities in the North-East have become ethnic ghettos.
Resurgence of kidnappings in Colombo
Meanwhile, kidnapping of Tamil businessmen in Colombo and south Sri Lanka continued, after a brief lull.
According the Civil Monitoring Committee set up by Mano Ganeshan (head of the Western Province Peoples' Front), a 42 year old Colombo businessmen, Maxie Bolton, was kidnapped on December 9 by five armed men posing as CID officers.
T Puveneswaran, a businessman of Matara in South Sri Lanka, was kidnapped by two men posing as police.
A few months ago over 50 Tamil businessmen were kidnapped from Colombo for huge ransoms.
According to Ganesan, millions of rupees had been collected by shadowy groups allegedly enjoying the tacit support of a section of the police.
"How could the kidnappers escape every time, when Colombo was bristling with security personnel and innumerable checkpoints, if it was not for some connivance?" Ganesan asks.
The government, however, had stoutly denied the charge. About the lack of progress in the investigations, the government would say that the victims' families were not coming out with any clues about the abductors, either out of fear or for some other mysterious reason.