Indian author shot and killed in Afghanistan

AFP, KHOST, Afghanistan

Sat, Sep 07, 2013 - Page 6

Suspected Taliban in Afghanistan shot dead Indian author Sushmita Banerjee, whose book about her dramatic escape from the militants in the 1990s became a Bollywood film, police said on Thursday.

Police in insurgency-hit Paktika Province, in the east of Afghanistan, said they found the body of the 49-year-old on Thursday morning, after the militants dragged her out of her husband’s home late at night and shot her repeatedly.

“We found her bullet-riddled body near a madrassa on the outskirts of Sharan city, the provincial capital, this morning,” provincial police chief Dawlat Khan Zadran told reporters, confirming earlier reports in the Indian media.

Banerjee’s book Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife, about her escape from the Taliban, was made into a Bollywood film in 2003. The book may have been the reason the militants went after her, police said.

“Our investigation ... indicates that the militants had grievances against her for something she had written or told in the past,” the provincial police chief said.

“She had been shot 20 times and some of her hair had been ripped off by the militants,” Zadran said, adding that masked men had tied up the writer and her Afghan husband before executing her.

The Taliban were not reachable for comment.

Banerjee was married to local businessman Jaanbaz Khan and had recently moved back to live with him in Paktika, reportedly to run a health clinic for women.

Sanjana Roy Choudhury, a publisher from Hay House India, told reporters: “It was courageous of her to have written about her escape from Afghanistan. She married an Afghan and in trying to live a life with her husband there, this is the price she paid. It’s a brave voice that’s been quietened.”

Bengali writer Samaresh Majumdar added: “Her book recounting her life in Afghanistan and her escape revealed the situation in the country. She risked her life by returning to Afghanistan. It was akin to committing suicide.”

Award-winning Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi said Banerjee’s death “is a loss to Bengali literature. Her life was threatened in Afghanistan. She should not have risked her life.”