The Indian government on Tuesday said the death of Indian author Sushmita Banerjee in Afghanistan's Paktika province last week was due to "family related issues", as per initial findings by the local Afghan authorities.
Addressing the media, Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said India is in touch with the police chief of Sharan city of Paktika who has assured that he will "diligently find out what is behind" the killing of the Bengali author whose best-selling book detailed the horrors she endured during Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
"Our initial understanding is that there were some family issues related to her sad demise, but we will wait for the final probe by the local police," said the spokesperson.
Pressed to explain what he meant by "family issues", the spokesperson said the investigations were preliminary in nature and he begged patience till the entire probe was completed by the police authorities in Afghanistan.
Banerjee had defied her family to marry Afghan businessman Jaanbaz Khan. In 1998, she wrote the bestselling memoir Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou (A Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife), offering a vivid description of the suffering of women under the Taliban.
On Sep 5, Banerjee, 49, was dragged out of her home and shot dead by suspected Taliban gunmen in Sharan city. However, her family in Kolkata has said they suspect foul play in the death and have demanded a probe.
Banerjee's sister-in-law Debolina Banerjee said in Kolkata on September 6: "Why she (Sushmita) alone was killed while the rest of the family was left untouched? Did the killers tie the rest of the family members to actually protect them? Why did her husband not try to contact us after the tragedy?"
Akbaruddin said Indian ambassador Amar Sinha had got in touch with the local governor and police and also Banerjee's husband Jaanbaz Khan.
"Our understanding is he (husband) is in distraught state and the family has completed the final rites," said the spokesperson, adding that India was in touch with the family to see if there are any of her belongings that they would like to repatriate to India.
Jaanbaz Khan is legally the next of kin of Banerjee, being her husband, he clarified.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had asked the central government to bring back the author's body to Kolkata.