Swimming against the tide
Tough the superstar has finally been convicted, history hints that he should soon be out on bail, relishing his freedom, argues Aditya Aamir.
The year 2018 has been bad for Salman Khan. He stands convicted and sentenced to five years in the fourth blackbuck case. The year 1998 was a bad year for the blackbucks killed in Jodhpur by a band of actors led by the superstar. Hunting has been a centuries-old pastime for the people of eminence and deer of all sorts are 'game' after the big-games like tigers, lions and leopards. Salman made a mistake; he shot dead a couple of blackbucks in a land where people worship blackbucks and animals in general. Besides, the blackbuck is also endangered, unlike actors who are dime a dozen, except that Salman Khan commands a price bigger than most prized actors.
On Thursday morning, the dressed in all black Salman Khan was convicted and sentenced for killing two blackbucks while other Bollywood hunters – Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam – who were with him in the Maruti Gypsy, were acquitted.
The argument against the verdict is why are the rest allowed let go? They were into the conspiracy to kill and must have clapped when the blackbucks were felled. That is what hunters do, they cheer the leader of the hunter-pack, pat him on the back and later when the skinned carcass is slowly turning to golden-brown-red on the spit over the jungle fire, feed on the meat, in this case, 'venison'.
The verdict: Deer meat comes dear; costs a bundle and that includes 'conviction' and life behind bars for certain periods. If the two blackbucks had not been shot dead, they would have pranced around in the jungle for the rest of their 'God-given' lives, taking each minute and hour of danger from other wildlife in their stride. The crime was that they were not allowed the many adventures they were entitled to in their normal lives. 'Endangered' means that only man cannot kill the endangered animal, other wildlife which kill endangered animals do not commit a crime because that is what they do – they kill when hungry at mealtime.
Most of the mainstream media was batting for Salman Khan but those on the blackbucks' side – the Bishnoi community, which worships blackbucks, in particular – say Salman deserves what he got because 'Being Human', he should have known that he cannot be an 'animal' in the wild. Salman's defence team argued that he has been "framed" and that he's a "celeb" and a "reformed bad boy"; that he has been given the benefit of doubt in the three other blackbuck killing cases he was involved in and, ergo, should in this case also have got the benefit of doubt.
The other actors in the Maruti Gypsy have been let go because they were not holding guns, say some advocates. And that Salman cannot call himself innocent "all the time". The Bishnoi Sabha, meanwhile, says it will not let Saif, Sonali, and Tabu walk free. Very little is spoken about what Salman and his hunting team did with the slain blackbucks. Did they skin the blackbucks and make a meal of the venison or did they leave the carcasses at the kill-spot out of concern for the vultures and hyenas?
There are those who are, even after Salman's conviction, talking about how slippery a character he is. To date, "serial offender" Salman Khan has been convicted in several cases but in all of them, he eased to freedom as easily as a worm from a sticky situation. The only time he went behind bars, he was out in seven days.
In this case, too, if he was not sentenced for more than three years he would have avoided jail time. But less than three years and he would have been entitled to bail from the same court, a privilege that was not accorded to RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav in the fodder cases. Salman has surely been the slippery eel who serially fished for trouble and was convicted but continued to have a whale of a time because he got off very easily.
It happened in the Mumbai hit-and-run case which left several people 'murdered on the pavement' and where the same day he was convicted by a lower court he was given bail by an upper court. Salman like the salmon (the ray-finned fish of the fish-family known as Salmonidae) is a fish that swims upstream, against the current of the water.
Also, whenever cases against Salman came to a head and he was about to be convicted, Bollywood started screaming from the sidelines, shouting from the studios that hundreds of crores of rupees were invested in Salman movies which were in the middle of shooting and his conviction would put so many "innocent families" in dire straits; poor folks, they cannot be left to starve, give them a chance, please, don't put Salman behind bars, try 'Be(ing) Human'!
Hell, his bankrupt Veergati actor is fighting TB in a hospital and Salman is paying her hospital bills. What will happen to her, at least have a thought! The Veergati actor will now have to wait for an upper court to bail her out.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)