The Disappearance of an Academic

by Shabnam Farook, 'Daily Mirror,' Colombo, January 16, 2007

Six years after, for many, it’s a forgotten matter shrouded in the past. But for his family, the pain endures. The following article was written one month after he was abducted.

Amnesty’s appeal follows.

Missing and Forgotten: The disappearance of an academic
[foreword by ‘Journalists for a Democratic Society,’ Europe, December 15, 2012]

‘Everything and nothing
one within and between all,
gentle, loving, pervading,
the eternal silence falls’    –    ‘The Great Eternal Silence’ – Aquinas T. Duffy

Six years ago, on the 15th of December, the Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka was abducted within a high security zone in Colombo 7. Prof. Sivasubramaniam Raveendranath was on his way to attend a conference of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), when he went missing. ‘Since he was in an area tightly controlled by the military, it seems likely that his captors are an armed group operating with the tacit support of the security forces’ said Amnesty International, in a statement on the 20th December.

Within  four days, a global appeal,  supported by 67 academics around the world, was launched. “As colleagues, friends, and, in some cases, academic partners of Eastern University we urgently appeal for the swift and safe release of Professor Raveendranath” they appealed. But no investigations conducted and no perpetrator has been brought to justice.

Six years after, for many, it’s a forgotten matter shrouded in the past. But for his family, the pain endures. The following article was written one month after he was abducted. – Editors

Professor Ravindranath: A man with a vision

By Shabnam Farook

There is no God, there is no God if he doesn’t come back” lamented Professor Ravindranath’s grief stricken daughter Dushyanthi who has learnt to cope up with the pain of not knowing how, or where her father is but there are visible signs that she is grieving.

It is exactly one month and one week since Prof. Sivasubramanium Ravindranath the vice chancellor of the Eastern University was abducted in broad day light when he was attending a conference at BMICH.

His abduction caused wide spread condemnation and was also highlighted internationally.

Though his family is trying hard to carry on their lives in spite of his disappearance, not knowing his whereabouts has taken a toll on everyone, specially the Professor’s wife Jegadeeshwari who is his shadow.

“My mother depends on my father for everything, she wont, even go the market without him, he does everything for us, she is really upset and worried, she is a diabetic patient and this has affected her health” says his concerned daughter.

A husband and a father

Dushyanthi says that her mother’s health is slowly deteriorating as she is reluctant to take her medication or have proper meals.

The world knows Prof.Ravindranath as a renowned scholar and as the Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University, but what was he like as a husband? and a father ?

“He was a very kind and soft spoken man who wouldn’t harm anybody, that is why this took us by surprise, and we are very upset, I’m 26 and he hasn’t used a harsh word on me even once, he treated every body alike from his academic staff to the youngest students at the university” said teary eyed Dushyanthi Malawaran.

While most of us spend our free time idling he used every ounce of his energy to do some good for others specially children who were poor, deprived and victims of the tsunami in the Batticaloa district.

A man of simplicity

Prof. Ravindranath shied away from indulgence and enjoyed simple pleasures.

“He wouldn’t even where socks and shoes and always used slippers, he was comfortable in them, if you see him on the road, you wouldn’t know he was a Vice Chancellor”, sobbed Dushyanthi.

Dushyanthi took me through the unfortunate day her father was abducted causing shock waves around the country……..

“From the 11th he was going to the conference continuously and always came home for lunch, that day it was 2.45 and he hadn’t returned I was worried so I called his mobile but it was switched off, I called the driver but I couldn’t get through to him. At 4 o’clock I went up to the top of the road looking for him, but at around 6 o’clock I knew something was wrong and something had happened to him because he had threats. Later I contacted my husband and we went to the police, to file an entry at the police station.”

“We are trying everything possible to find him, the police haven’t got any clues as yet, but they are doing everything they can, my husband and I have gone to the police and every other person we know, hoping for the best”.

Professor Ravindranath had arrived in Colombo last October to hand in his resignation, when unknown abductors who claimed to have kidnapped the Dean of the Arts faculty of the Eastern University Mr. Bala Sukumar on September 30 had called the Professor the very next day and offered to set the dean free in exchange of the professor’s resignation. However his resignation was not accepted as it was based on mere threats.

Since then the Professor, his wife and their youngest daughter have been living in Dushyanthi’s flat amidst the great objection of the Professor who found life in Colombo boring and wanted to be with his beloved University.

His only vision in life is to develop the Eastern University and see to grow by stature – a vision that he worked with untiring dedication.

Missing ‘Ammappa’

“He used to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and spend all his time browsing through the computer collecting funds for the people of Batticaloa, he also found lectures and prepared notes for MA students, which Vice Chancellor actually takes time to find notes for the students?” questions his daughter who is clearly surprised at the turn of events.

Dushyanthi who is worried about her father’s health condition says that he suffers from high blood pressure, and hopes that he is in good health, a hope that is fading with every passing day.

Professor, Ravindranath, was the perfect grandfather who showered little Kaniska Dushyanthi’s 2 year old daughter with all the love he could give and she too understands that something bad had happened to her ‘Ammappa’ (grand father).

All Mrs.Ravindranath, Dushyanthi and her sister want is to see him safe and with them enjoying the little moments that he made a difference in their lives and many others’ lives he touched with his kindness.

A ray of hope is seen in Dushyantih’s eyes when she sighs” The Chairman finally accepted his resignation, we are hoping that this will make a difference and he will be returned to us as soon as possible.”

On the 30th of this month Prof.Ravindranath will celebrate his 56th birthday and they can do is hope and pray that he would celebrate this milestone of his life with their family, friends and loved ones. As Martin Luther King, Jr once said – “we must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope”

Photo courtesy: Tamil Net



“Disappearance”/fear of torture or ill-treatment/health concern: Professor Sivasubramanium Raveendranath (m)

PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 37/035/2006
20 December 2006

UA 336/06 “Disappearance”/fear of torture or ill-treatment/health

SRI LANKA Professor Sivasubramanium Raveendranath (m), aged 55,
Eastern University, Batticaloa

Professor Sivasubramanium Raveendranath, the Vice-Chancellor of Eastern
University, was reportedly abducted while at a conference in the capital,
Colombo, on 15 December. Since he was in an area tightly controlled by the
military, it seems likely that his captors are an armed group operating with
the tacit support of the security forces. He is at risk of torture. He suffers
from heart disease, putting his life in greater danger.

Sivasubramanium Raveendranath had been attending a conference of the Sri Lankan
Association for the Advancement of Science and was reportedly last seen by
colleagues during the tea break between sessions.

On 20 September, gunmen abducted his colleague, the Dean of the Arts Faculty of
the Eastern University, Dr Bala Sugamar. It is widely reported that the
kidnappers had demanded the immediate resignation of Sivasubramanium
Raveendranath in return for Dr Bala Sugamar’s release. Sivasubramanium
Raveendranath handed in his resignation and Dr Bala Sugamar was released soon
after. The University did not accept his resignation, on the grounds that it
was a presidential appointment, but he had not yet felt it was safe enough for
him to return to the university, and had been carrying out his duties from
Colombo. His family have said that Sivasubramanium Raveendranath had received
several threats, thoughit is not clear from whom.

According to the head of a local NGO, Eastern University has a reputation for
violent internal politics, mostly about control of the university. Many faculty
members have resigned, gone missing or have been killed in the past. Some
people within the university have claimed that Professor Raveendranath is a
supporter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but his family
maintain that he is entirely apolitical.


The human rights situation in Sri Lanka has deteriorated dramatically in recent
months. Fighting between the security forces and the LTTE has increased since
April, and this has led to scores of civilians being killed or injured, and
forced more than 200,000 people to flee their homes. Neither the security
forces nor the LTTE appear to be taking adequate precautions to ensure that
civilian are not killed or injured by military actions. Despite the escalating
violence, both sides maintain that they are committed to a 2002 ceasefire
agreement. Over two decades of conflict in Sri Lanka have claimed the lives of
more than 65,000 people, the majority of them civilians.

In recent months in areas in the north and east of Sri Lanka, there have been
reports of a number of people “disappearing” or being abducted by the security
forces or armed groups. Such people are often called or taken in “for
questioning” and held incommunicado. No receipts or records of their detention
are made available, and the official mechanisms for reporting such events, such
as through the National Human Rights Commission, are often unable to find where
the missing people are. Anyone held this way is in clear danger of torture or
ill treatment.


AI Index: ASA 37/035/2006 20 December 2006



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