New Delhi: Indian author Sushmita Banerjee, who wrote a popular memoir about her dramatic escape from the Taliban, was on Thursday shot dead in Afghanistan.
Married to an Afghan businessman, Sushmita was killed outside her home. The book about her dramatic escape in 1995 became a best-seller in India and was made into a Bollywood film in 2003. Sushmita's brother-in-law was also murdered a few years back in Kolkata.
Sushmita had recently moved back to Afghanistan to live with her husband. Sushmita became well-known in India for her memoir, 'A Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife', which recounted her life in Afghanistan with her husband Jaanbaz Khan and her escape.
She was the subject of the 2003 Bollywood film, 'Escape From Taliban'. Starring actress Manisha Koirala, the film described itself as a "story of a woman who dares Taliban".
A senior police official said Banerjee, also known as Sayed Kamala, was working as a health worker in Paktika and had been filming the lives of local women as part of her work. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Banerjee also wrote about her experiences in Afghanistan for Outlook magazine. She went to Afghanistan in 1989 after marrying Khan, whom she met in Kolkata. She wrote that "life was tolerable until the Taliban crackdown in 1993", when terrorists ordered her to close a dispensary she was running from her house, and "branded me a woman of poor morals".
She wrote that she escaped "sometime in early 1994" but her brothers-in-law tracked her down to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, where she went to seek help from the Indian High Commission. They took her back to Afghanistan.
"They promised to send me back to India. But they did not keep their promise. Instead, they kept me under house arrest and branded me an immoral woman. The Taliban threatened to teach me a lesson. I knew I had to escape," she wrote. Shortly after that, she tried to escape from her husband's home, three hours from Kabul.
"One night, I made a tunnel through the mud walls of the house and fled. Close to Kabul, I was arrested. A 15-member group of the Taliban interrogated me. Many of them said that since I had fled my husband's home I should be executed.
However, I was able to convince them that since I was an Indian I had every right to go back to my country," Banerjee wrote.
(With additional inputs from PTI)