The Biography of Slain Indian Writer Sushmita Banerjee

Sushmita Banerjee alias Sayeda Kamala was a Human Right Activist, a Bengali writer and the author of best selling book Kabuliwalar Bengali Bou (“A Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife”, 1997) which inspired the Bollywood Movie Escape from Taliban.

She was born in a Bengali Brahmin Family. She married an Afghan Businessman Janbaaz Khan in Kolkata on 2 July 1988 . When her parents tried to get them divorced, she fled to Afghanistan with Khan only to discover later that he already had an Afghani wife Gulguti.

Sushmita Banerjee Author Escape from Taliban

Sushmita Banerjee at a function in Kolkata in 2003

Although shocked, she continued to live in Khan’s ancestral house in Patiya village, with her three brothers-in-law, their wives, and with Gulguti and Gulguti’s children.Banerjee, a trained nurse in gynaecology, opened a clinic to help the women of the village.

Taliban men discovered her clinic and beat her severely in May 1995 and asked her to close it. She was tortured several times over her reluctance to close the clinic.

She was caught and kept in house arrest in the village. A fatwa was issued against her and she was scheduled to die on 22 July 1995.

With the help of the village headman, she finally fled from the village, in the process killing three Taliban men with an AK-47 rifle. She reached Kabul, and took a flight back to Kolkata on 12 August 1995.

In an interview she talked about her escape from death in the hands of Taliban. “The Taliban court gave its verdict. I was to be shot dead on the morning of July 22, 1995, on the charge of disorderly behaviour unbecoming of a woman… At 10.27 a.m., I was brought to the mehman-khana (guest room) where 15 Taliban soldiers, who were to be my executioners, were reading verses from the Koran.” said Sushmita.

Her First book Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou (“A Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife”) came in 1995. It recounted the tale of her love marriage to the Afghan businessman Janbaz Khan, her moving to Afghanistan in 1989, the adversities she faced in Talibani Afghanistan and her eventual escape back to Kolkata, India. The book inspired Manisha Koirala starrer movie Escape from Taliban in 2003.

She received several criticism for her books and his movie. Her Husband’s family was pressurized and threatened by Taliban over the release of Movie.

Later she authored several books like Talibani Atyachar—Deshe o Bideshe (Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan and Abroad), Mullah Omar, Taliban O Ami (Mullah Omar, Taliban and I) (2000), Ek Borno Mithya Noi (Not a Word is a Lie) (2001) and Sabhyatar Sesh Punyabani (The Swansong of Civilization).

In an interview with a magazine in 2002, Sushmita revealed that she was persecuted for refusing to wear a burka. She also got into trouble for refusing to close her pharmacy. On one occasion, Taliban came to her home and attacked her.

“Two men stood on top of me and beat me mercilessly while the others pulled at my hair,” she said. “Other women of the house just watched as mute spectators.

“They were too scared. I don’t know what would have happened if a [local leader] had not intervened. He was fond of me for my work among the sick women. The Taliban, on that occasion, could not continue and fled.”

She lived in India until returning to Afghanistan in 2013 with hr husband. Few months back she started working as a health worker in Paktika Province in southeastern Afghanistan, and also started to film the lives of local women.

On September 5, her dead body was found outside a Madrassa on the outskirts of the provincial capital Sharana. The corpse had 20 bullet holes.

Reports say that suspected Taliban terrorists forced into Sayeda’s house in Paktika Province on the night of 4 September 2013. They tied her husband, and absconded with her.