June 23, 2006

Army Officer Susmita Chakraborty Commits Suicide

Filed under: Most Read,personal,Suicides murder women,This Gets To Me — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 1:37 pm

News of a suicide triggers off a feeling of intrigue as to the circumstances, first and foremost, followed by sadness at the finality of the act which negated hope. It is the strongest of all statements made by a human being expressing disgust, hopelessness and defeat. Silently.
When the suicide happens to be of a woman army oficer,(not the first in recet times) Susmita Chakraborty all the above emotions get amplified. The fact that she had opted for a career so pre-dominantly male in its intrinsic nature and majority enrollments, automatically empowered her with qualities deserving of applause. As also telling of being a determined, spirited go getter, having crossed the hurdles, broken centuries old shackles of tradition, customs and norms.

Ergo that such a person had to succumb to feelings of ineptitude in dealing with the cards fate seemed to have dealt, is a hundredfold tragic.It seemed as if she had to bow down , finally to the fact that she was born a woman!

This observation is not born of bias, any more than disgust. Its birthplace was the assertion by an army officer Vice Chief of Army Staff S. Pattabhiraman’s reported statement that the ‘Army can do without women’.

While giving him the benefit of the doubt, that his observation had more to do with the rigours the job entails and less to do with the obvious inferences of a prejudice against women, yet, one cannot help but assert that the army had a duty towards ensuring that new women recruits ought to have been accorded a ‘Special job orientation’ programme, in addition to counselling sessions that could alleviate such occurrences, in an effort to pre-empt their decision in recruiting women officers.

Had the Army betrayed her? According to news coverage on various channels, she was deeply disgruntled by the fact that she was put in fields which were contrary to her interest, not at par with her professional skills, which resulted in humiliation and demeaning, apparently. Her job entailed organising parties and looking after supplies. She had expressed her resentment at various junctures to the officers and her family. Resigning would have meant paying back a ‘surety’ which had been signed and which would have meant selling her parents home. Staying on was ‘suicidal’ for her. Literally.

Sadly, as in most cases, it is the starkness of an innocents death that finally shakes the powers who be out of their stupor of indifference into initiating preventive measures. In this case Sushmita had to die in order to make the Army awaken as to their inherent faulty structure.

Incidents of the kind could result in two totally diverse repurcussions. First, women candidates, may get inhibited at the ‘fear of the unknown’, fresh from initiatives to take on newer avenues , underlined by this suicide. Families and dear ones will sow further seeds of disapproval and disgust at the recriminations of a decision to venture into a field pre-dominantly male, alien and unwelcoming.

One cannot say with certainty that there is an absence of male prejudice towards women who do attempt to take on careers that epitomised male strength and stamina. That there is no male reservation to womens inclusion in this final male bastion, whereby their pride and ego receive a perceived ‘blow’ which states insiduously’whatever you can do I can do’ intentionally not including ‘better’ to express unbias, would be erroneous. Merely playing the role of interlocutor.

The second option could in fact be the reverse,and get the future women cadets mentally prepared to expect the worst and give their best. It could serve as a lesson in gaging what not to do or expect in tandem with gearing them up attitudinally to combat the enemy within, before comabatting the enemy without.

Whatever the future course of action undertaken by either the army or women, one cannot deny the shattering of dreams and disillusionment of a young brave woman officer, who had crossed the threshold of the safety of her home to serve the nation ‘tangibly’ and all she was accorded in return was a relegating to the background jobs .A lowering of her self esteem to such an extent that she found it umworthy to live.

The least we can do is not exhibit indifference at the death of a young life snuffed out in its prime.

Update: Reacting to the discriminatory statements against women in the army, of Vice Chief of Army Staff S. Pattabhiraman’s, BJP spokesperson Sushma Swaraj has demanded his suspension. The National Commision for Women has openly criticised his remarks..

Update: There was a growing suspicion that ‘arranging parties’insiduously meant more than an innocent connotation, else why would Susmita have objected so strongly. A M.Sc (chemistry) had been compelled to metamorph into an ‘event personnel’. Why the need to enroll in the army, had this been her goal? Clearly ‘job dissatisfaction’ and gender insensitivity, at more levels than one, was at stake here.

Update: Damage control exercises underway by the army. Latest statement
Women have done us proud: Army Chief

Teethwal (LoC), June 23 (UNI): Army Chief General J J Singh on Thursday said women have an important role to play in defence services and are a source of inspiration for others to join the armed forces.

“Women have done the Indian Army proud. They have always played an important role in the Army and other defence services. They will continue to play a vital role,” Gen Singh told journalists here after inagurating the Teethwal model village.

He said the women have always been given challenging assignments and never let the Army down.
“We give women tough assignments and they have always proved their mettle and done exceedingly well. In fact, it has been proved time and again that the women are a source of inspiration for others to join the armed forces,” the Army Chief added.
Gen Singh said women personnel have scaled heights in Army and other fields.
Cross linked at DesiPundit

NowPublic has linked this story


  1. Always seem to be the first to respond.

    nyways, the problem I believe lies also in that at the time of enrollment , it is not specified where they are going to serve. That is unfair. and sushmita got what she didnt want.

    and ofcourse no indifference..a death has to be taken seriously.

    Comment by Neha — June 18, 2006 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

  2. Why is the defence ministry trying to hush up the matter?

    there is more than meets the eye.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 18, 2006 @ 10:20 pm | Reply

  3. Nice post..informative and fair. The army seems to be squirming caught on the wrong foot and without valid excuses. There can be no major doubts that women may be at a loss there, and without adequate counselling facilities, unable to cope with the pressures. It is a relatively newer area of participation.Obviously attacking the enemy as commandos was not what they were looking for. But neither being marginalised or sidelined. Things will look up or rather now forced to look up.

    Comment by sanjay — June 20, 2006 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

  4. thanks for the post…as usual…
    check this link…

    Comment by silbil — June 20, 2006 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

  5. il get there people and take sum officers to the brink of contemplating suicide. my bro told me- i wouldnt want my sister to be in the army, he being a major himself. there definitely is more than meets the eye. but death i would say is too big a step- she hurt all her loved ones still.

    Comment by Dim Poetry — June 20, 2006 @ 6:45 pm | Reply

  6. Hi neha,

    Yes you are very prompt in your responses..thanks. Lets say you are intuitive and instinctively know when a new one has cropped up:) I guess now things will undergo a sea change as far as information and clarification to women cadets goes.


    Its too wide spread now for the matter to be hushed up. But lets not forget we are dealing with seasoned diplomats as well.


    Thanks..and you have summed it up pretty much there.


    Thanks to you:) went to the site..most of them did not surprise, but disappointed. But that is why we are a conglomeration of ideas!


    You always get me to smile..ahh youth and that too teens! Love your enthu.. Keep it up.

    As for her decision to end her life, all I can say is we are never totally privy to anothers pain and turmoil in the sanctum sanctorium. God bless her soul!

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — June 21, 2006 @ 12:13 am | Reply

  7. I personally feel that its not the army that should be blamed but rather the parents. They were the ones who forced the person to take up a proffession she wasnt interested in.
    I dont thnk the army can allow a culture whereby the recruits live in a comfort zone, not when their next posting could be Siachen !!!

    And as much as we should not speak ill of the dead, suicide is not an option. Especially when it affects your near and dear ones.

    Comment by Libu — June 21, 2006 @ 1:11 am | Reply

  8. Libu,

    I cannot endorse your comment. Firstly coz nowhere has it been mentioned that her parents forced her or co erced her to take on this profession. Unless you have read reports I have not.

    Second, how can you suggest that it was a ‘comfort zone’ she was looking for? Having enrolled in the army it is a given that she had mentally prepared herself for a job which entails physical discomfort. Perhaps you have missed the details. Her resentment had to do with ‘arranging parties’ or such like demands. If you can read between the lines, it would be enlightening. As also click on the links.

    Suicide can never be the first option. It speaks of helplessness and defeat. Very difficult to condemn someone who has found it difficult to cope. Mental anguish has no barometer and neither does coping mechanism.Thats what sets us apart as human beings.And yes, it is unfair to be judgemental.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — June 21, 2006 @ 9:26 am | Reply

  9. This is chameleon karmas comment. Had a problem while publishing, so am re doing it.


    The General’s comments on women ARE deplorable and need to to condemned unconditionally and without reservations.

    Susmita’s suicide – as all suicides are – is indeed immensely saddening.

    However, indicting the armed forces for her act is easy and perhaps an instinctive reaction.

    Life in the armed forces, in general, and on the front, in particular, can push the strongest of men (as in species and not gender) to breakdown. There have been numerous cases of suicides amongst the males – officers and soldiers – as well.

    It is also the nature of the job which requires ALL officers to go through all the assignments that form a part of the Armed Forces machinery. Once you’ve joined the Army, it is unfair to expect privilges to be accorded to you on the basis of your gender, caste , religion or culture.
    It is indeed sad that Susmita – within 6 months of joining the armed forces reached a level of job dissatisfaction which led her to kill herself. But to accuse the army of a gender bias on account of the fact that she was assigned the task of ‘organising parties and looking after supplies’, is perhaps a little unfair on the army. All young recurits and officers NEED – and rightfully – to go through all the departments of the army. The same is true for perhaps all the industries.

    Lets look at the facts:
    – She joins the Army in September ’05
    – In March ’06 – after completing 6 months of service, she returns home on a 2 month vacation
    – She admits to her family that she made a wrong career choice, and expresses her desire to quit
    – Her mother, not only forces her to continue, but also accompanies her back to her posting
    – Caught between a career she knew she wasn’t cut out for, and a family which forced her to continue with it, she kills herself

    Everybody is talking about whats wrong with the Army, yet nobody asks the family that why did they force her to continue with a career she didnt want to follow. Maybe, the Army was hard on her – but thats the nature of the job – but why did the family not extend her the support a disturbed child needs.

    No. The Chakraborty family cannot absolve itself of its guilt by blaming the Army for the death of young Susmita!
    Chameleons karma

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — June 21, 2006 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

  10. Ck,

    “Maybe, the Army was hard on her – but thats the nature of the job ”

    You have very easily facilitated to absolve the army, while pegging it on the nature of the job, when to my mind it is what was asked of her beyond the ‘call of duty’.

    As mentioned to Libu, it is not right for any of us to make ASSUMPTIONS to the extent of distorting facts to consolidate our argument. I have no idea whether or not the family had co erced her into the profession. To me it seemed that she was unhappy being relegated to an ‘event management’ like role to play .The fact that ‘surety’ is a deciding factor, was bound to play its part in creating a dead-end situation.

    I cannot agree that women have to go through ALL departments, irrespective. There must be a choice or she would not have expected it as an option.

    The army has admitted to lack of counsellors in its department. Does not that spell to you that somewhere it does feel responsible? Dont we owe our army officers an environment that promotes growth and well being? A scenario of nurturing and caring if they have decided to dedicate their lives to the profession? For how long are we going to turn our face away from any problems that women confront with an attitude of ‘blame it on whoever’ or maybe the woman herself for lack of ‘courage?

    I think dimpoetrys comment on what her brother advised her is relevant and tell tale as to the gender bias and discrimination present in the army which may have been the focal point of Susmitas depression.

    It all depends on how one wishes to view angst. One can either condemn it or level with it analysing it in its entirety. Absolving or blaming one party or the other was not the missive of my post. It was merely an analysis of the sequence of events as reported in the press.

    Each is free to make his/her deductions. If the army feels responsible then precautionary measures have to be adopted. Any harm there? Or does one need a few more suicides to emphasise the point strongly enough for all to have a consensus on the issue? I think it is important for us as citizens to read between the lines and present a fair reading of a given situation, in the interest of the larger good.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — June 21, 2006 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

  11. there is this surety angle also there no? Ck…taht they would have to pay back if she opts out of the job…i am not too sure about the exact facts …but that could be a reason like that…
    and sure no family however cruel that may sound can absolve tehmeselves of the guilt when a member commits suicide…
    sorry if the comment sounds really random…
    but suicides do something like that in my heart…the feeling of helplessness
    the life times of i wish i had listened more…said more…
    guilt is a usless emotion but what else can you feel here.

    Comment by silbil — June 21, 2006 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

  12. I’m not absolving the Indian Amry at all but I believe that the family was more at fault!
    The brother in the report you quote admits that she had expressed her desire to quit but was persuaded otherwise by her own family!
    K, you say that it is not right for any of us to make ASSUMPTIONS yet we ARE assuming that the repayment of the ‘surety’ was a deciding factor…
    It would be interesting to find out exactly how many ‘parties’ was Susmita asked to organise in her 6 months of service… it would, then, be more interesting to find out if male officers are exempt from ‘organising parties’. Isn’t there an assumption of sexual harassment here?
    Any sensitive organisation would and should feel responsible if incidents like these happen and I’m glad that the army is waking up the necessity of counsellors in the organisation.
    Silbil, I agree that suicides – and for that matter, death itself – the sheer finality of it – shakes one up and leaves one feeling helpless. However, to pronounce a knee-jerk verdict of guilt needs to be avoided.
    May God let Susmita Rest in Peace, wherever she is. May He also give the Chakroborty family the strength to bear the loss of their daughter. May the Indian Army develop systems that will enable them to pre-empt and hopefully avoid another situation where an officer or a soldier gets pushed over the edge!

    Heaven is very very quiet.
    This is our time to think.

    Comment by Chameleon's Karma — June 21, 2006 @ 2:09 pm | Reply

  13. Ck,

    I Never Assume .. I take blogging seriously especially if it is a comment on a matter of the kind.

    In an interview, the father Mr Chakraborty, mentioned about the ‘surety’ himself, that is how I learned of it.

    As for the parties bit, it was from a letter sent to the National Commission of women which has been linked in the updates.. where it has been clearly mentioned that her objections have been recorded as to the late night partying and supplies therein. I wish all would take the trouble of reading the links provided. it does give the story the dimension it needs to have. You will agreee that it is not possible or advisable to quote extensively from links. I prefer to comment on them.

    Yes, I do pray that it serves to be a catalyst, however cruel it sounds, to avoid further disenchantments and tragedies.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — June 21, 2006 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

  14. Ck,

    Please read this link.. it will glaringly elucidate my subtle references made in the post. Apparently, some time earlier to her death Susmita had made allegations of sexual harassment..please read on.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — June 21, 2006 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

  15. n folkz.. a gold medalist in chem is by no meanz a dullard! and who sayz the family forced her! she took up the army job herself n was also set to go to bangalore for officerz training…
    n reasonz of frustrationz are all by , for n of the army only!
    she leavez behind a shattered family;her fatherz abt to retire n bro passed 12th…
    its just not done! and its the 4th one since april this year..
    won get into statistical highz n lowz.. just that indian system has alwayz the ‘screen behind the mirror’ n dunno where we are heading with this sick gender bias!

    Comment by der Bergwind — June 21, 2006 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

  16. Good on you..der bergwind.

    I try not to get too carried away in the posts and keep hints subtle. But you hit the nail on the head. It was definitely a case of gender discrimination. Like I had hinted, she paid the price for being born a woman.

    When will it all end?? will it ever?? Cannot say. All we can do is attempt to highlight and focus the glare on such incidents and hope for the best. Nothing is more tragic than to be witness to a dream go awry.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — June 22, 2006 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

  17. If anything this incident has taken the lid off many a malpractice prevalent. The price was high …

    Comment by Anil — August 9, 2006 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

  18. It was very sad to hear such a news. Being a law student i belief that such an issue of discrimination and haressment should be litigated in Supreme Court through a PIL. In USA, the Supreme Court has given favorable judgments, affirming the rights of women in armed forces. Let the words of Article 14 of our Constitution not remain as black letter of law.

    Comment by Amar Pratap Singh — December 8, 2007 @ 12:19 pm | Reply

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