A Jodhpur Court today convicted controversial bollywood actor Salman Khan in the Blackbuck case. He has been sent to prison for 5 years and a fine of Rs. 10,000/- has also been imposed under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. This has been made possible by a long and dedicated battle put up by the Bishnoi community aided by two prominent groups- Akhil Bharatiya Bishnoi Mahasabha and Bishnoi Tiger Force.
The Bishnoi sect was set up by Lord Guru Jambeshwar of Bikaner in Rajasthan almost 500 years ago. He had laid down 29 tenets for the sect laying down the foundation for a harmonious living with Nature. Nature protection is the focal point of the religious community and killing animals or felling trees is strictly forbidden. The community has always lived up to the tenets of their sect and in fact hundreds of them, including women and children, had laid down their lives in 1730 A.D defending these tenets, when the king of Jodhpur ordered felling of trees for building his place. The fight against the then king was started by a Bishnoi woman Amrita Devi along with her three daughters who embraced the trees to protect them from being chopped off, forcing king’s soldiers to kill the women before felling trees. This shows their level of commitment to the cause of protecting nature.
In the Blackbuck case, justice has finally prevailed after 20 long years but it would not have been possible without the relentless struggle put up by the dedicated Bishnoi sect. Their struggle started right from the day the offence took place when Poonamchand Bishnoi, a local from the sect, encountered Salman Khan on his hunting spree along with the fellow actors. He confronted the convicted actor and his other actor fellows but they fled the spot. Bishnoi however, noted down the license plate number of their jeep and informed about the crime to the forest department without any delay.
However, the fight was only going to get more difficult for the community as the trial court took 8 long years before convicting Salman Khan with one-year and five-year terms for killing three blackbucks in two separate incidents. It is not uncommon for witnesses to break down in high profile cases and turn hostile. However, Poonamchand Bishnoi remained committed till the end of the trial and ensured that justice prevailed. However, Salman Khan got relief from the High Court on appeal and was acquitted a couple of years ago. The Bishnois did not give up the fight and took the vow of pleading before the apex court in a bid to ensure that the offender does not go scot-free. The Supreme Court recently issued a notice to Salman Khan on an appeal filed by the government against the acquittal by High Court. The apex court agreed to fast-track the plea that finally resulted in the conviction of the accused, Salman Khan.
However, the Bishnoi community, which has shown exemplary courage and has stuck to the principles on which the sect was founded has, realised that all is not over and the fight has to go on. They have decided to appeal against the acquittal of four other actors in the case. While Salman Khan has been convicted in the Blackbuck case, other actors who were present at the crime scene, have been acquitted.
The Bishnoi community deserves all the credit in the world for their commendable commitment to the cause of nature and abiding by the tenets laid down by their Guru. Hopefully, the community will eventually emerge victorious in the high profile Blackbuck case and set a benchmark for the rest of us in terms of protection of wild-life and living in harmony with nature.