Did The (Black) Buck Get Passed To Sal­man Khan?

There are many sto­ries do­ing the ‘rounds that SAL­MAN KHAN per­haps is not the real cul­prit who shot those en­dan­gered two black bucks. Su­mita Chakraborty delves closer to find out what the truth re­ally is.

Stardust (English) - - COVER STORY -

It hap­pened one moon­less night in 1998 on the out­door sets in Ra­jasthan of Sooraj Bar­jatya’s film Hum Saath Saath Hain. The lead ac­tors – Sal­man Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Son­ali Ben­dre and Nee­lam de­cided to do a HumSaath SaathHain and have a tryst with the wildlife in Ra­jasthan. End re­sult: two black bucks shot dead - the black bucks in­ci­den­tally are con­sid­ered Grade One an­i­mals ac­cord­ing to the Wildlife Pro­tec­tion Act as they are a highly en­dan­gered species. …And all fin­gers pointed to the self-con­fessed ‘bad boy’ of the film in­dus­try Sal­man Khan who was ar­guably the most con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure in Bol­ly­wood then. Sal­man was ar­rested and he spent 18 days in a Jodhpur jail at that point. He was out on bail after that but the le­gal en­tan­gle­ments con­tin­ued till…

20 years later: Sal­man Khan is con­victed to a term of five years by a Jodhpur Court while the other stars Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Son­ali Ben­dre and Nee­lam in­volved in the hunt, are ac­quit­ted. Sal­man, after spend­ing two days in jail, gets bail in the midst of high volt­age drama that in­cluded the trans­fer of the judge in ses­sion. End of story?

Not re­ally…. Vet­eran ac­tor and TV host Simi Gare­wal stirred the hor­net’s nest by tweet­ing: “Of one thing I am dead sure Sal­man Khan would NEVER EVER harm any an­i­mal. He loves them too much. The real cul­prit should be ex­posed. 20 years is too long to bear some­one else’s cross.” And very close at heel, re­spected jour­nal­ist and au­thor Bharathi Prad­han tweeted: “Won­der if some­one’s sleep­ing well tonight know­ing that Sal­man Khan is spend­ing the night in jail when the whis­per is that some­one else pulled the trig­ger. Sa­majh gaye, na?” Th­ese two tweets sud­denly brought the 20-year-old case into the spot­light again. Was there more to this case than that meets the eye? Many years ago, Sal­man Khan him­self gave an in­ter­view to Koel Purie, In­dia To­day’s Aroon Purie’s daugh­ter wherein he said, “I didn’t do it!” but would not say any­thing more than that. Of course, the world didn’t re­ally pay heed to his words. After all, Sal­man Khan was con­tro­versy’s fave child so ob­vi­ously, he would be the fall guy, right? But after Sal­man Khan’s con­vic­tion last month, the ‘shush’ed whis­pers be­came more and more vo­cif­er­ous. Many web­sites in­clud­ing Pinkvilla ac­tu­ally stated that, “Ac­cord­ing to an eye-wit­ness, Tabu had pro­voked Sal­man Khan to shoot the black buck. And sup­pos­edly, Son­ali Ben­dre too was a part of it but it was Tabu who had sup­pos­edly egged him on.” So why hasn’t Sal­man said any­thing about this? But of course, “egging and pro­vok­ing” does not con­sti­tute to shoot­ing two hap­less black bucks. But then again, some more sto­ries started do­ing the rounds which TV chan­nels lapped up al­most im­me­di­ately that per­haps Sal­man Khan was not the real cul­prit who pulled the trig­ger. Ac­cord­ing to a source, Sal­man Khan, two decades back, was rev­el­ling in his ‘bad boy James Dean rebel with­out a cause’ im­age. So sup­pos­edly, after the in­ci­dent, he had al­legedly an­nounced to his ‘part­ners in crime’ that since he was al­ready dubbed as the bad boy by the me­dia, he might as well shoul­der the blame for the in­ci­dent. The other stars, ac­cord­ing to the

One thing I’m dead sure is that Sal­man Khan would never harm an­i­mals.The real cul­prit should be ex­posed.” —Simi Gare­wal

same source, were pretty quick to take up his of­fer, after all, a scape­goat was be­ing of­fered on a plat­ter, it would be rather fool­ish to say ‘no’! And al­legedly, the story that night nar­rated was very different from what hap­pened. Mark Manuel, an­other vet­eran jour­nal­ist, put up on his Face­book page: “I know who shot the black bucks. But I am not telling. And I am not telling be­cause Sal­man Khan won’t. He’s tak­ing a bum rap for some­thing that hap­pened 20 years ago. To which he was party. But is not guilty of. Some­times we do things in the heat of the mo­ment based on our emo­tions more than rea­son or logic. That’s what Sal­man did. He acted in the man­ner he thought was best. He was not just the big­gest star of the ‘ Hum Saath Saath Hain’ cast on the hunt at Bhawad in Jodhpur that Septem­ber night in 1998, but also the star with the largest heart. He took the blame. Hero­ically maybe, but also un­wisely. Now it has come to bite him in the pants.” Mark fur­ther goes on to say, “Hap­pily no­body, not his fans and not the film in­dus­try, be­lieves he is guilty. Only the courts in Jodhpur do. If the hunt had hap­pened last week, and Sal­man was 52, far more ma­ture and un­der­stand­ing of the ugly ways of the world and its dirty peo­ple than he was at 32, would he have said he gunned down the en­dan­gered species wor­shipped by the Bish­noi com­mu­nity of Ra­jasthan if he had not pulled the trig­ger? Yes, he would. …And I know that in 20 years, he has only be­come more gen­er­ous and large-hearted than he was be­fore. He is man enough to take the sen­tence. But to carry the guilt of this charge and live with con­dem­na­tion must be eat­ing him up. Yet for 20 years, dur­ing the trial in which he was ac­cused un­der the Wildlife Pro­tec­tion Act of 1972 and Arms Act of 1959, he did not say a word. That leaves the per­son who shot the black bucks. In 20 years, this per­son too never said a word. Is it likely that this per­son will now step for­ward, ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity, and save Sal­man Khan from go­ing to jail? No. That hap­pens only in Bol­ly­wood. And iron­i­cally, though the hun­ters of this poach­ing in­ci­dent were a Bol­ly­wood cast, there was only one hero among them.” So did some­body from the mot­ley group of five smartly ‘pass the buck’ lit­er­ally to Sal­man Khan? No­body knows… And un­less Sal­man Khan opens his mouth and clar­i­fies his po­si­tion, no­body will. …Or if per­haps the ‘real’ cul­prit (if there is one), can stop pass­ing the buck and would own up, per­haps the truth will come out in the open. But for now, the buck has been passed on to Bhai jaan, and he has to pay for the con­se­quences of his ac­tions…

The other stars, sup­pos­edly, were pretty quick to take up Sal­man’s of­fer, after all, a scape­goat was be­ing of­fered on a plat­ter, it would be rather fool­ish to say ‘no’!

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