'Escape From Taliban' Author Shot Dead
An Indian woman whose memoir about life under Taliban rule in Afghanistan was turned into a Bollywood movie has been shot dead.
Suspected Taliban gunmen arrived at Sushmita Banerjee's home in the village of Daygan Sorqala in eastern Paktika province before dawn and seized her husband Jaanbaz Khan when he opened the door.
He was blindfolded and bound before the author was dragged outside into the road and shot at least 15 times, police chief General Dawlat Khan Zadran said.
The 49-year-old Kolkata-born woman wrote A Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife, based on her experience of marrying an Afghan, and staying in Afghanistan during Taliban rule. It became the basis for the 2003 film Escape From Taliban.
The book described how she met her husband Jaanbaz Khan in India and agreed to marry him despite her parents' disapproval and the fact that he was Muslim while she was Hindu.
She moved to Afghanistan as Mr Khan's second wife, only to find that life became unbearable as the Taliban increased its hold over the country after its rise to power in 1994 until being overthrown in 2001.
The Taliban's harsh interpretation of Islam placed severe restrictions on women, including forcing them to wear all-encompassing burqas, banning them from working and prohibiting girls from attending schools.
Banerjee was forced to close the medicines dispensary she was operating and was whipped for refusing to wear a burqa, according to her book.
She first fled to Pakistan, but was brought back by her husband's family and kept under house arrest. In 1994 she dug a hole through the mud wall of the building and eventually managed to reach the Indian embassy.
In an online interview reposted after her murder, she described making it back to Kolkata in August of 1995.
"I still remember the day I stepped on Indian soil for the first time after I had left," the interview quotes her as saying.
"It was raining outside. People were scurrying for shelter. But I didn't run. I just stood there and let the rain wash off my pain. I felt if I could bear so much in Afghanistan, I can surely bear my motherland's rain. I don't know how long I stood there, but I won't forget that day."
The Taliban is influential in Paktika province, but a spokesman contacted by the Reuters news agency denied his men had carried out the killing.
Zafar Khan, the father of Jaanbaz Khan's first wife, said Banerjee was beloved in the area and many residents were upset that a peaceful woman had been targeted.
"She was a very kind woman. She was very educated - she knew the internet," he said.
The head of Afghanistan's National Journalists' Union, Faheem Dashty, said Banerjee had been making a documentary about the lives of women in Paktika and her Indian publisher, Swapan Biswas, said she was also intending to write another book about Afghanistan.
"She was sad that she had nothing to offer in the book fair in Kolkata earlier this year and she told me she planned to go to Afghanistan to gather material for a new book," he said.
The killing of the author is the latest in a string of attacks on prominent women in Afghanistan, adding to fears about what will happen to women's rights in a country where many are barely allowed outside the house once US-led foreign forces fully withdraw next year.