After 20 long years, a Jodhpur court finally delivered its verdict on the Salman Khan 1998 blackbuck and chinkara poaching case. The actor was awarded a five-year jail term and slapped with a fine of `10,000. While the star might be out on bail soon the verdict has come as a victory to thousands of wildlife activists and enthusiasts in the country. Orissa POST chats up wildlife experts and students on the significance of the verdict and whether it would boost conservation efforts
Arindam Ganguly, OP
Durgesh Kumar Singh, a wildlife and nature photographer, said the verdict has come after a long time but would certainly help in boosting conservation efforts, especially of endangered species. He said the verdict must be viewed as a victory for Bishnoi villagers who were fighting the case against the actor and his co-stars of the movie ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ –Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam Kothari – all of whom have been acquitted.
Sovakar B Yadav, wildlife expert and founder of Green Life Rural Association who works for protecting Olive Ridley turtles, said the verdict will boost overall confidence of people fighting for animal rights. He said the conviction of a star like Salman Khan proved that justice always prevails. “We must take lessons from the verdict and must try to find solutions as to how the endangered Olive Ridley turtles can be protected”.
Biswajit Mohanty, a wildlife expert, said the case created a benchmark in terms of creating awareness about the safety of animals. “But law can’t change everything. The necessity of changing the attitude of people towards animals is acute. Awareness should be created about treating animals properly. Their natural habitats must not be encroached upon.
Purabi Patra, founder of Animal Welfare Trust at Ekamra, said the blackbuck is an endangered species and hunting a Schedule 1 creature is no less a crime than other major crimes. “Salman’s conviction has set a very good example and should serve as a deterrent for poachers and wildlife abusers. Definitely, a good example has been set. Bail shouldn’t be granted so that poachers and hunters don’t get emboldened. Today is a redletter day for wildlife and animal lovers. The verdict should serve to create general awareness on the need for conservation.
Siddhartha Pati, founder of the Association for Biodiversity Conservation and Research (ABC), said more than the jail term the court could have fined the actor heftily and the money could have been channelized to protect and conserve different species.
Debasmita, a student, said more than the sentence of five years, what is more important is that the judiciary and society in general has revealed an empathetic attitude to animal rights. “Animals must be treated as a part of society,” she said.
Soubhagya Soumyashree Samal, another student, said stars such as Salman Khan must be responsible citizens of the country and must not indulge in such condemnable acts as their fans idolise. “I hope the verdict will be an eyeopener for them,” she added
Actor Buddhaditya Mohanty said, “Legal punishment for shooting endangered bucks is fine. The case has dragged on for 20 years. In all these years Salman has done many humanitarian works. And what about those who poach tigers, burn puppies alive, hang monkeys and kill them mercilessly? They should also be punished.”
Actor Sindura Rout said she was “extremely shocked” to hear Salman Khan being convicted by a sessions court. “But I have fullfaith in the judicial system which has many other doors open for the actor to appeal. Since he is the most loved person in the industry I feel sad about him. But everyone is equal in the eyes of law.