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Armywoman shoots self to death

Lt Susmita Chakraborthy did not leave any suicide note. She had undergone psychiatric counselling in March.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 20:42 IST

A woman lieutenant of the Indian Army, commissioned just 10 months ago, committed suicide by shooting herself in Udhampur, headquarters of the army's Northern Command in Jammu and Kashmir, apparently because she was "dissatisfied and unhappy with her job."

Lt Susmita Chakraborthy of the 5071 Army Service Corps (ASC) Battalion did not leave any suicide note. She had undergone four psychiatric counselling sessions in March, army authorities in New Delhi said.

Army and police officials in Udhampur, 65 km north of Jammu, said the 25-year-old officer went to the officer's mess near her official quarters on Thursday evening and asked the sentry for his rifle "as she wanted to get photographed with it."

The unsuspecting sentry handed his weapon and, within moments, Chakraborthy shot herself with it. She was taken to the Command Hospital in Udhampur where she was declared brought dead.

This is the first incident of its kind in Jammu and Kashmir of a woman army officer committing suicide. A male captain, Sumit Kohli, had allegedly committed suicide in the state in late May and the government says it has asked the army to probe the incident. An enquiry has also been ordered into Chakraborthy's death.

The officer's mother, Sadhana Chakraborthy, told reporters in Udhampur her daughter had "unwillingly joined the army about 10 months ago." The family hailed from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and she was a first grade masters in chemistry. Her father PB Chakraborthy works with the state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL).

An army spokesman in New Delhi rubbished this, saying Chakraborthy had passed a stringent entrance test to be admitted to the Officers Training School (OTS) in Chennai where she had undergone nine months rigorous training before being commissioned as a short service commission officer September 17, 2005.

The spokesman admitted that given her high qualifications, Chakraborthy's "aspirations might not have been met", adding, "But then, it must be remembered that she joined the army of her own volition."

Chakraborthy had been posted as a platoon commander with the 5071 ASC Battalion. She had completed pre-course training June 2-15 for undergoing a Young Officer's Course at the ASC Centre, Bangalore.

In December, she had taken 15 days leave to go home to Bhopal, the spokesman said.

"In mid-March, her Commanding Officer noticed a change in her behavioural pattern. She seemed depressed. She was referred to a psychiatrist and underwent four counselling sessions March 15-31. Thereafter, she said she had adjusted to the environment," the spokesman added.

"Chakraborthy took 30 days leave from May 1 and extended this by another 30 days. She rejoined on June 1," the spokesman said.

"I came with her as she was feeling very low," her mother said in Udhampur.

The elder Chakraborthy said her daughter was very short tempered and had become more so as she was "disillusioned with her present job." She wanted to quit the army but could not do so as "she had to pay the bond money to the army."

"We had told her that the money could be arranged by selling off the house in Bhopal," Sadhana Chakraborthy said, adding her daughter did not agree to this "because she was concerned about her younger brother too who had just passed Class 12."

The army spokesman brushed this aside, saying there was "no question" of the officer having been asked to repay the money spent on her training.

"The first we heard of Chakraborthy wanting to leave was from her mother," the spokesman added.

The only time payment is demanded is when a cadet wants to quit midway through training at the National Defence Academy (NDA), the Indian Military Academy (IMA), or the Officer Training School (OTS).

"We have calculated the cost of training at Rs 7,500 a month. If a cadet quits midstream, he or she has to pay for the number of weeks spent in training," the spokesman explained.

The Indian Army has 918 women serving as Short Service Commission officers in various branches -- excluding the Army Medical Corps and the Army Dental Corps.

They initially serve for five years, which can be extended by five years and finally by another four years for a total of 14 years.

"If they want to quit during the first five years, they have to resign and this has to be accepted by the Defence Ministry. If they want to quit in the next five years, they are released after approval from army headquarters," the spokesman stated.

During 2005, four women officers had resigned and 16 had been released. One-woman officer had sent her resignation while nine had been released in the current year.

Indian Army lieutenants -- both men and women -- serve in the scale of Rs 8,250-10,050, which along with perks, comes to approximately Rs 16,000 and Rs 20,000 at the bottom and top end of the scale.

Police have registered a case and the body of the officer was being flown to Bhopal.