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Best-selling author assassinated as husband was blindfolded by Afghan Islamic militants

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Some books - are written in blood. Indian author Sushmita Banerjee, whose best-selling memoir about her dramatic escape from the Taliban became a Bollywood movie was shot dead by Afghan militants in Afghanistan, police say. Also going under the name of Sushmita Bandhopadhya, she was killed outside her home in Paktika province.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The suspected Taliban insurgents broke into her home earlier this week, blindfolded and tied up her husband, and fled with Banerjee, Dawlat Khan Zadran, the police chief of eastern Paktika province said.

Her body was later found dumped outside a madrasa, or religious school, in the outskirts of Sharana city, the provincial capital. "She had around 20 bullet holes in her body," Zadran said.

Banerjee first won acclaim with her 1995 book, "A Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife," recounting her story of marrying for love and moving to Afghanistan in 1989. The book traces her life in Afghanistan with her husband, her harassment by the Taliban and her eventual return to India.

In an article in India's Outlook magazine in 1998, describes life in Afghanistan as tolerable until the Taliban crackdown in 1993. "I remember it was early that year that members of the Taliban came to our house," she wrote in Outlook.

"They had heard of the dispensary I was running from my house. I am not a qualified doctor. But I knew a little about common ailments, and since there was no medical help in the vicinity, I thought I could support myself and keep myself busy by dispensing medicines. The members of the Taliban who called on us were aghast that I, a woman, could be running a business establishment. They ordered me to close down the dispensary and branded me a woman of poor morals.

"They also listed out do's and don'ts. The burkha was a necessity. Listening to the radio or playing a tape recorder was banned. Women were not allowed to go to shops. They were even prohibited from stepping out from their houses unless accompanied by their husbands. All women had to have the names of their husbands tattooed on their left hand. Virtually all interaction between men and women outside the confines of their own homes was banned."

Her book was made into a Bollywood film, "Escape from Taliban" in 2003. Bollywood movies are extremely popular in Afghanistan.

The 49-year-old Banerjee had recently moved to Paktika province to live with her husband, Afghan businessman Jaanbaz Khan, police said. She was a health worker who helped women in an area that had very few female health professionals.

Banerjee could have been targeted for many reasons, including for her book, the movie, her health work, or even the fact that she was an Indian woman, Zadran said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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