Salman Khan convicted in blackbuck poaching case: Rajasthan's Bishnoi community vows to continue fight

Actor Salman Khan has been convicted for poaching blackbucks in Rajasthan in 1998 under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Salman has been convicted for poaching two blackbucks in the Kankani village of Rajasthan while shooting for Bollywood film Hum Saath Saath Hai in September 1998. He was allegedly accompanied by other actors from the film's cast, including Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam Kothari. However, it was only Salman who was convicted by the Jodhpur Court on Thursday.

The Bishnoi Sabha, which has been the primary complainant in this case, has decided to appeal against the acquittal of the other four actors, and said they will move a higher court.

Salman Khan convicted in blackbuck poaching case: Rajasthans Bishnoi community vows to continue fight

Representational image. AFP

After the incident came to light in October 1998, it was the Bishnoi villagers who registered a complaint against Salman and his four co-actors. They also registered a complaint against the Bollywood star for allegedly poaching chinkaras earlier in the same year. And when Salman was acquitted by the Rajasthan High Court in 2016 of poaching chinkaras, the Bishnois prepared to move Supreme Court. However, while that case verdict hasn't been challenged yet, the buck hasn't stopped for the community.

The Bishnois, a prosperous and influential group residing primarily in Rajasthan, are unwilling to forget and forgive Salman for his alleged crimes, especially his acquittal in the chinkara poaching case, they were quoted as saying by The Hindu. "We respect the court's verdict, but would like the case to be taken to the highest court of appeal," Ram Nivas Budhnagar, a working committee member of the Akhil Bharatiya Bishnoi Mahasabha, had said back in 2016 following the high court's verdict.

Budhnagar, who is also the general secretary of the Bishnoi Tiger Force, an environmental protection group that had helped highlight Salman's alleged involvement in poaching, said their fight is far from being over. "There was direct evidence of him violating the law. What he did was premeditated and planned, and he is a repeat offender," Bhudhnagar said.

He was further quoted as saying that the community will continue to fight for justice. "We will get justice. We won't get defeated but will take the fight till the end."

The Bishnoi sect, which was formed by Jammeshwarji Maharaj in 1542 AD, is known for its beliefs associated with nature worship and wildlife conservation. They have been known to make many sacrifices for the protection of animals, specially the endangered blackbuck.

In one such novel initiative, Bishnoi farmers in Sriganganagar and Hanumangarh districts of northern Rajasthan provided drinking water to a large number of deer and blackbucks facing intense heat in the plains. The farmers dug up about 70 troughs, many of them in their own agricultural fields, over a 60 sq. km. area, and filled them with water. Blackbucks which were earlier climbing up the canal banks, drowned, as the canal edges had a slanting slope they could not climb back on. About 30 deer lose their lives every year while trying to drink water from the canals and the crisis has affected a population of about 10,000 deer and blackbucks.

A 45 year old Bishnoi farmer, living in the Lakhasar village of Hanumangarh district, told The Hindu that the villagers had dug small troughs and lined them with plastic sheaths to prevent loss of water through seepage. These troughs are replenished every 10 days. He has been a recipient of the State-level Amrita Devi Environmental Award in 2009, having been working for the protection of environment and wildlife for the last 20 years.

Blackbucks and chinkaras are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, but the Bishnois consider the former as being sacred, the incarnation of their Guru Jambeshwar. They follow what is perhaps the world's only environment-friendly religion and recognize the right of birds, animals and trees to live in peace and harmony with humans. In 2016, over 1,700 people involved in wildlife crimes in Rajasthan were arrested due to the efforts of this community.

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Updated Date: Apr 05, 2018 18:39:47 IST

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