Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has been sent to jail for five years in Black Buck Poaching Case and a penalty of Rs 10,000 also levied on him by the Jodhpur court. The case would not have reached this stage without the relentless fight put-up by the Bishnoi community for the last two decades. Akhil Bharatiya Bishnoi Mahasabha and Bishnoi Tiger Force- two groups are behind this persistent struggle.
Who are Bishnois? Why are they so serious about wildlife conservation?
The Bishnoi is a 500-year-old religion, founded by Lord Jambheshwar, committed to conserving nature. Jambheshwar had laid down 29 tenets for his followers which included a ban on killing animals, a ban to the felling of trees - especially the khejri - which grows extensively in these areas and using material other than wood for cremations. Nature protection was given foremost importance in these tenets.
The Bishnois consider that the entire ecosystem scared exists in their villages. Animals like blackbucks and chinkaras, birds and even the endangered Great Indian Bustard, find the Bishnoi village a safe haven.
Bishnois protect animals and birds from poachers. The community members allow them to graze freely in their farmlands; by keeping stone vessels near their home that are always filled with water; and even hanging water-filled pots from the branches of trees for the birds to drink from.
Rampal Bhawad, State President, Bishnoi Tigers Vanya Evam Paryavaran Sanstha, said, "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."
The trial court had convicted Salman Khan in 2006 sentencing him to one-year and 5-years imprisonment for killing three chinkaras in two separate incidents on September 26-27 and 28-29, 1998 - two of them were killed in Bhawad and one in Ghoda Farmhouse in Mathania. This was while he was in Jodhpur for the shoot of "Hum Saath Saath Hain". The cases were registered against Khan under section 51 of Wildlife Protection Act. However, the High Court overturned these two trial court verdicts in 2016.
Later, Salman Khan was issued notice by the Supreme Court on an appeal by the Rajasthan government challenging his acquittal in blackbuck poaching case. The top court agrees to fast-track the plea.
Bishnoi devotees with posters themed around curbing pollution participate at the Mukam fair in Bikaner on Sunday. PTI Photo
Bishnoi society protest
Members of Bishnoi society holding placards during a silent rally against the acquittal of Salman Khan on Chinkara poaching case, in Jodhpur in 2016. PTI Photo
Potest against Salman Khan's acquittal
Members of the Bishnoi community protest against the High Court's decision to acquit Salman Khan in Bikaner (2016). PTI Photo
Protest in Bikaner
Members of the Bishnoi community painting black ink on poster of Salman Khan during their protest against the High Court's decision to acquit Salman Khan in Bikaner (2016). PTI Photo