Sri Lanka probing Indian trader's killing

The probe got underway after the Indian high commission in Colombo took up the case formally with the Lankan foreign ministry.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2006 12:54 IST

Sri Lanka has launched an investigation into the mysterious murder of a sari trader from Tamil Nadu who was tortured to death in the island's restive east.

The probe got underway after the Indian high commission in Colombo took up the case formally with the Sri Lankan foreign ministry by giving it a "Note Verbale" seeking action, according to diplomatic sources.

"The Sri Lankan government has said the matter is being investigated and they will keep us informed of the outcome," one source told the agency from Colombo.

The source added: "We are following up. Obviously, those responsible for this dastardly and inhuman act, which we condemn unreservedly, are yet to be apprehended or identified."

There is plenty of speculation as to who killed Mahalingam Vijaykumar, a sari trader from Tamil Nadu who had gone to Sri Lanka along with others including his father-in-law, Nagarajan.

Sometime last month, Vijaykumar disappeared in Batticaloa district. His decomposed body with telltale torture marks and a bullet wound on the head was found in Valaichenai area, about 35 km from Batticaloa town.

Some in Sri Lanka are linking the crime to business rivalry. Others feel the Tamil Tigers, whose supporters have in the past cast aspersions on some traders, or its breakaway faction led by Karuna are responsible.

Locally, both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the rival Karuna group have denied any involvement.

Police in Valaichenai blamed the LTTE for the grisly killing. But Vijaykumar's father-in-law insisted that the Karuna faction was most probably the culprit.

"That's what local people told me," Nagarajan said over the weekend from near Dindigal town, 380 km southwest of Chennai. "Seeing the body was a shock to me. I just cannot tell you how badly he had been tortured. It is terrible."

According to Nagarajan, two other sari traders from Tamil Nadu, Murugesan and Radhakrishnan, also went missing last month in Batticaloa and are believed to be dead.

According to Indian sources, a larger number of sari and textile traders from Tamil Nadu visit Sri Lanka and travel to different parts of the island including areas controlled by LTTE without contacting the Indian mission in Colombo.

One Indian businessman settled in Colombo added: "The traffic of such traders between Sri Lanka and India is considerable. I know for a fact that many of them in Colombo visit India twice a week and return with items to be sold here.

"In fact they have more frequent flyer miles than high-flying executives! Be that as it may, it is most unfortunate that this incident has occurred."

Vijaykumar, father of a four-month-old child, went to Sri Lanka for the first time Feb 21-April 10. He left on the fateful trip May 10, checking into a small lodge near the police station in Batticaloa town.

One Indian who recently visited Sri Lanka added: "The Tamil Nadu traders can be seen everywhere with bulging black bags. In Colombo, in Amparai, in Batticaloa, in Jaffna, even in Killinochchi... they are all over."

First Published: Jun 07, 2006 12:54 IST