June 16: Lieutenant Susmita Chakraborthy asked the army guesthouse sentry for his rifle yesterday afternoon, telling him she wanted to pose with it for a photograph.
Susmita went inside and shot herself. She was 25.
Her mother Sadhana, who was staying at the guesthouse, said she was “disillusioned with her present job”.
Commissioned eight months ago and working at the Northern Command headquarters at Udhampur, Susmita was platoon commander of a transport company of the Army Supply Corps’ 5071 battalion.
Sadhana, who had accompanied her daughter from hometown Bhopal where the officer had gone on leave, said: “I came with her as she was feeling very low.”
Mother and daughter arrived at Udhampur a couple of weeks ago. Sadhana said Susmita felt “suffocated” and wanted to quit the army but could not as “she had to pay the bond money”. “We told her that the money could be arranged by selling the house in Bhopal”, but “she was concerned about her younger brother who had just passed Class XII”.
There was no formal request from Susmita to leave the service.
Records showed she had tried to kill herself twice earlier, but no details were given. A report prepared by Col Vijay Pande, a psychiatrist in the command hospital at Udhampur, said she did not show suicidal tendencies but she was mildly anxious and depressed.
A few weeks ago, she had brought sexual harassment charges against her superiors.
Brig. K.K. Chopra, commander of her battalion, said that on her return from leave she told him how she wanted to excel over her colleagues but found herself unable to cope with the high standards demanded by her duties.
The family’s version is different. In Bhopal, her father P.B. Chakraborthy, who works in Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, said she had told him she hated the ‘girlish’ assignments given to her.
The lieutenant, a gold medallist in chemistry, was counselled by a psychiatrist at the command hospital four times. She has been on leave a little too frequently for a newly commissioned officer.
When she returned from leave, Chopra and his wife noticed “behavioural irregularities” and advised her to seek psychiatric help.
Susmita was preparing for the “Young Officers’ Course”, conducted in Bangalore where she was due shortly.
Susmita’s is the second suicide by a lady officer since the army began recruiting women in 1993. Major G. Shobha Rani hanged herself on May 29. A failed relationship was the likely reason.
Four soldier suicides have taken place since April 30, a trend that discredits claims by army headquarters that welfare measures and psychological counselling were keeping soldiers spirited.
In November last year, commanding officers were instructed to take special notice of soldiers before they went on leave and on return. In Susmita’s case, army sources say, this was followed. Still, she killed herself.