Salman the convict and Salman the good human being are two different entities

Superstar Salman Khan is a wonderful human being. He gives breaks to newcomers in the film industry and guides them selflessly. He also helps people in financial trouble. He runs Being Human, the NGO which works for the upliftment of the needy. He has a heart of gold. Over the decades he has also reformed from being a spoilt brat to a responsible celebrity. All this is indeed laudable, but the fact remains that he has been found guilty in a criminal offence and sentenced.

There is no need to mix the two: Salman, the good human being and Salman the convict. He may have committed the offence twenty years ago and the verdict may have been too late for comfort. The issue of delayed justice is a serious one indeed, and needs to be addressed, but this is not unique to Salman’s case. There are lakhs of people languishing in jails across the country because the judicial process drags on for years and years. Many of these incarcerated people ought to have been free on bail, except that they do not have the means to afford the bail amount, let alone the resources to hire the best legal brains to represent them.

Salman Khan’s crime is a serious one: He hunted animals that were on the protected list in Rajasthan. This is not his only misdemeanour: Lower courts have convicted him in a hit and run case where people died, and in the killing of another species of deer. True, he got acquitted by the appellate courts in these two instances, but his reputation remained sullied. The hue and cry over his conviction and quantum of sentence has got to do with his celebrity status — it is inconceivable that a non-entity would have attracted such attention even if he had been wrongly punished.

Salman’s supporters say that he is being made to pay for his status. The flip side is that he ought to have been careful in his conduct because people look up to him and his every action and word has the power to influence the minds of millions of Indians who adore him. He is a much loved actor, no doubt, and enormous successful. The credit for his hard work, dedication to his profession and talent cannot be taken away from him. But his fans must learn to differentiate between issues.

In the film industry, there are many who are distraught, and this is understandable because of the personal bonding they have with him. But give a thought for the feelings of the Bishnoi community that considers the Black Buck, the species that the actor hunted down, as a family member.

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