India author Sushmita Banerjee, also known as Sayed Kamala, was murdered outside her home in Afghanistan last night after recently returning to the country to be with her husband. She fled in 1995 after being held and threatened by the Taliban.
1. Banerjee Was Killed After Moving Back to Afghanistan
Banerjee recently moved back to Afghanistan to live with her husband in the city of Kharana. Earlier today, according to the BBC, Taliban militants stormed her home. After tying up Banerjee’s husband, they dragged her outside and shot her in the head. Her body was dumped near a religious school, according to local police.
After being contacted by the BBC, the Taliban did not claim responsibility for the murder.
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2. Banerjee Made Headlines After Writing A Memoir About Escaping The Taliban
Banerjee wrote a book called “Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou” (A Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife), which chronicles her 1995 escape from the Taliban in Afghanistan.
After she was branded “a woman of poor morals” by the Taliban, according to the India Times, she fled to Islamabad, Pakistan to seek help from the Indian high Commission. She was quickly tracked down by her brother-in-law and taken back into Afghanistan and put into her husband’s home.
“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.
One night shortly after that, Banerjee dug a tunnel through the mud wall of the house she was being held in and attempted to make her escape. She was quickly picked up and interrogated by 15 Taliban members.
“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,” wrote Banerjee.
The militants continued interrogating her through the night. The next morning they took her to the Indian embassy. She was given safe passage to Calcutta, where she was reunited with her husband.
3. Banerjee’s Memoir Was Made Into a Bollywood Movie
In 2003, Banerjee’s book was adapted into a Bollywood film called “Escape From Taliban.” Directed by Ujjal Chattopadhyaya, the film depicted Banerjee’s forbidden marriage to a Muslim man and eventual damnation by the Taliban for running a pharmacy and refusal to convert to Islam, according to The Guardian. Banerjee was persecuted specifically for refusing to wear a burka.
“Two men stood on top of me and beat me mercilessly while the others pulled at my hair,” said Banerjee. “Other women of the house just watched as mute spectators.”
The film was marketed as the “story of a woman who dares (the) Taliban.”
Banerjee was portrayed by Indian actress Manisha Koirala. Check out the film’s trailer above.
4. The Movie Made Banerjee’s Husband Want to Commit Suicide Due To His Portrayal
Banerjee and her husband, Afghan businessman Jaanbaz Khan, were distraught after the release of “Escape From Taliban” for the false portrayal of Khan in the film, according to the India Times.
“After seeing the film, I felt miserable,” said Banerjee. “My husband has been depicted as a wife-abuser in the film. This is absolutely false.”
After seeing the film, Khan felt that he could no longer show his face in public. He was disgraced.
“He was so depressed, he mentioned having a wish to commit suicide,” said Banerjee.
Among other discrepancies, Banerjee pointed out that key people in aiding her escape were completely omitted from the film.
5. Banerjee Was Working on a New Project at the Time of Her Death
According to TheHundu.com, Banerjee was working as an aid worker in the nearby city of Paktika at the time of her death. She was doing that while working on her next project, documenting the lives of women through film as part of her work.