As reported by India Today, the Salman Khan and blackbuck poaching case has reached a new point with the B-town actor being convicted and sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment by a Jodhpur court this week. This case against the movie-star was spearheaded by the Bishnoi community , who refused to budge from their stand and buckle under fierce pressure from varied sources. This community of rural conservationists, hailing from western India, mostly from the Thar desert area, revere nature and are against animal killings or felling of trees. Founded by Guru Jambheshwar in 15th century Bikaner, Rajasthan, this community has been known to risk their lives to save animals and trees, and consider themselves as protectors of blackbuck, a protected species, since centuries. According to folk legends, Amrita Devi and her three daughters of the Bishnoi clan stood against the king’s decision to fell trees to build a palace. They hugged the trees demarcated to be cut down to prevent the act of destruction, with Amrita Devi sacrificing her life in the process. This incident was infact the inspiration behind the famous Chipko movement. Three centuries later, another individual from the Bishnoi community stood in the face of immense opposition and crippling pressure, and gave testimony against the Bollywood superstar and his friends in the blackbuck poaching case. Poonamchand Bishnoi, a local from the area, claimed that he saw Salman Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu, Saif Ali Khan and Neelam in the jeep and later heard gunshots. This 1998 incident happened during the shoot of the movie Hum Saath Saath Hai, and resulted in the death of 2 blackbuck. Bishnoi also testified that he saw Salman Khan gun down the animals, and flee when confronted. Bishnoi noted down the jeep’s number and reported the incident to the officials of the forest department. It was this testimony which resulted in the sentencing of Salman Khan after a 20 year struggle by the entire community to bring justice to dead blackbuck. Mr Shivraj Bishnoi, the state president of All India Jeev Raksha Bishnoi Sabha welcomed the court’s decision and said “The five-year punishment for Salman Khan is a result of the 20-year long struggle of the Bishnoi community.” while also commenting “The punishment for playing with wildlife should be stringent”.
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