Jodhpur: Contrasting scenes were witnessed outside Jodhpur Sessions Court on Thursday once Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was pronounced guilty in the blackbuck poaching case dating back to 1998. While ardent fans rued the verdict, members of Bishnoi community gathered to celebrate a decision they termed just.
Fans of Salman Khan - found guilty of having shot dead two blackbucks - were left dejected when informed that their icon was sentenced to five years in jail. Having gathered here from across the country, many even broke down. "He is our hero, our god. The decision is incorrect because he is such a great actor and an even better human being," said Anand Shankar, a resident of Patna. Many even prayed for Salman to be granted bail. "I am confident that Salman Khan will be granted bail and he will resume working on his films," said Priya Gupta, a local and devoted fan.
A short distance away from them were people jumping with joy - quite literally. The Bishnoi community respects and worships blackbucks, and had criticised Salman for targeting the animals. It was a wait of 20 years for them as well but one that they said had a happy end. "This has come late but at least justice has been finally done," said one of them.
— ANI (@ANI) April 5, 2018
Interestingly, fellow actors accused in the case - Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam - were given benefit of doubt and were acquitted. "We'll analyse the judgement. We want an immediate appeal to be filed against those who have been acquitted and we also demand maximum punishment for Salman Khan," Rampal Bhawad, state president, Bishnoi Tigers Vanya Evam Paryavaran Sanstha, told news agency ANI.
Salman was charged under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act which carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison. The other actors had been charged under Section 51 read with Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code.