Zee Media Bureau
Kabul: Sushmita Banerjee, the woman whose memoir about life under Taliban rule was turned into a Bollywood movie, was shot dead in Afghanistan`s Paktika province on Thursday by suspected members of the Islamist militia.
Banerjee`s killing was the latest in a string of attacks on prominent women in Afghanistan, adding to fears women`s rights in a country, where many are barely allowed outside the house, will face setbacks after US-led foreign forces fully withdraw in 2014.
Eighteen years after militant leaders sentenced her to death after she refused to wear a burqa in public, the attackers on Thursday dragged the 49-year-old Banerjee outside her home, took her to Al Jihad madrasa in Sarrai Kala village and was shot 25 times, reported the New York Times.
Dawlat Khan Zadran, the provincial police chief in Paktika, however, denied knowing the reason behind her killing.
The Taliban have, however, have denied responsibility for her death. Notably, they are often reluctant to own up women`s killing.
In an interview, Banerjee, also known as Sayed Kamala, had described trying to flee Afghanistan multiple times to get away from the Taliban, and how she was ordered executed as a result of her attempts. She made it back to Kolkata in August 1995. Banerjee had recently moved back to Afghanistan to live with her husband.
Her book "A Kabuliwala`s Bengali Wife" was published in 1997, about nine years after she got married. It later became the basis for the 2003 film "Escape from Taliban", which starred Manisha Koirala.
Sushmita Banerjee, who was from Kolkata, met Afghan businessman Jaanbaz Khan in India and got married to him despite her parents` disapproval and the fact that he was Muslim while she was Hindu. She then moved to Afghanistan in 1989.
According to summaries of the book online, Banerjee moved to Afghanistan as Jaanbaz`s second wife, only to find that life would become unbearable with the Taliban increasing their hold over the country.
She lived in Daygan Sorqala village, and was well-known as a medical worker in the area, with special training in gynaecology.
In another interview, she had mentioned that the Taliban militia, which rose to prominence in 1994 and officially ruled the country from 1996-2001, had made several visits to her house when she ran a dispensary from her house. She had even cooked for them.
The Taliban militia, during its rule, had placed severe restrictions on women. It forced them to wear all-encompassing burqas, banned them from working and prohibited girls from attending schools. The Islamist rulers` harsh interpretation of their religion meant many women could not get proper medical care because the only physicians available were men who in most hospitals were allowed to examine women only if they were fully clothed.