The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parting gift stuns Susmita father

Bhopal, June 17: As they struggled to cope with their 25-year-old daughter’s alleged suicide, Lieutenant Susmita Chakraborthy’s parents had insult added to their injury today by a reported remark from the army brass.

The army vice-chief, Lt Gen. S. Pattabhiraman, was quoted as saying that the force could well do without its women officers.

“It’s a parting gift that we do not need. If he has said such a thing, it shows their wisdom. We know only one thing ' Susmita will not come back,” said a deeply upset P.B. Chakraborthy, who had just consigned his daughter’s body to the flames at the Subhash Nagar cremation ground here.

Uncle Sanjay Chakraborthy and family friends said that instead of issuing such statements, the army should find out why a strong-willed person like Susmita was driven to take the extreme step.

“I favour an inquiry by an independent agency. She desired to go ahead in life. Why would such a woman kill herself'” Sanjay said. “I still can’t believe that it is a case of suicide. It is a terrible end to a promising life.”

Susmita, commissioned in October 2005 and posted at the Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur, allegedly shot herself on Thursday with a rifle borrowed from a sentry.

Her parents said she was feeling “suffocated” by the “girlish” jobs she was given, such as organising late-night parties and handing bouquets to senior guests.

Neighbour Sudhanshu said Susmita’s reservations about the army’s late-night parties need further probe.

“What was happening in these parties that upset the young girl so much'” he asked.

Susmita, a university gold medallist in chemistry, had brought sexual harassment charges against her seniors a few weeks ago.

Sudhanshu said Lt Gen. Pattabhiraman’s reported remark didn’t merit serious consideration.

“We are told that a hundred-and-odd male officers have committed suicide. Does that mean the army can do away with recruiting men, too'” he asked.

The family continued to blame the army for Susmita’s death, saying its failure to give her a posting of her choice lay at the root of her unhappiness.

“They had tested her for mental fitness, assessed her psychological profile and then given her an appointment. They are the ones who are saying it is suicide; we are not. It’s a one-sided inquiry,” said S.K. Roy Choudhary, a family friend.

A large number of army officers and personnel were present at the cremation ground, where the body was taken in a procession from her home in Saket Nagar.

The body had been flown to Bhopal last night and kept at the mortuary of the Army EME Centre. The funeral was conducted without military honours as the army has declared the death a suicide.

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