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'We told Sushmita not to return to Afghanistan'

September 06, 2013 21:47 IST

Family members of author Sushmita Banerjee, who was shot dead by masked gunmen in Afghanistan, on Friday claimed that they had asked her not to return to the troubled country, but she did not listen insisting that the situation had changed there.

"When Sushmita decided to return in January, we had told her not to return. But she argued that the situation has changed in Afghanistan in the past several years. Let me go. If I find that I can't stay, I will come back", Sushmita's sister-in-law Debalina said.

"We always lived here in tension thinking about the situation in Afghanistan. But when she rang up about a fortnight back, saying that the situation was normal, we felt assured. Sushmita was doing a paramedical job there," she told a news channel in Kolkata.

Sushmita also wanted to write more on the people of Afghanistan and their lives, she said.

Asked about the Taliban's denial of involvement in the killing, she quipped, "It has to be seen if the Taliban was speaking the truth. It seemed that she was the target as nothing happened to other members of her in-laws' family."

She said they failed to contact Sushmita's husband Jaanbaz Khan in Afghanistan.

The police said in Kabul on Thursday that Sushmita Banerjee, whose memoir about her dramatic escape from the Taliban was turned into a Hindi film, was shot dead in Afghanistan by militants.

Banerjee, 49, was killed outside her home in Paktika province. The Taliban on Friday denied killing Sushmita Banerjee, whose murder Afghan officials blamed on the insurgent militia fighting against the government for 12 years.

Banerjee's book Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou (A Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife), about her escape from the Taliban in 1995, became a bestseller in India and was made into a Hindi film "Escape From Taliban" in 2003.

A candle light vigil was observed in the city's Beliaghata area today to mourn the death of the writer who hailed from the city.

Meanwhile, the brother of the author, Gopal Banerjee, on Friday told PTI that the family had contacted the external affairs ministry pleading that the body be brought to Kolkata. He said that they were yet to get a response from the ministry.

"We have contacted the External Affairs Ministry and we have clearly stated that we want to bring back the body of our sister back in Kolkata," he said.

The family members also alleged foul play in the killing of Sushmita. He said they had sent mails and got in touch with the Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat to help them bring back the body.

Gopal said that it was since the end of last year that she was planning to go back to the country. "We warned her that it would be dangerous. But all our pleas and warnings fell on deaf ears. She pleaded that Afghanistan was safe."

Reminiscing about the last conversation he had with her sister, Gopal said, "Eight to ten days back Sushmita had called for the last time. She didn't say anything about any threat or problem there. Maybe she didn't want us to get tensed on account of her."

Image: Indian author Sushmita Banerjee was shot dead by militants in Afghanistan on Thursday

Photograph: Reuters


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