Bollywood actor Salman Khan has been convicted of killing two endangered blackbucks in 1998 while he was shooting for the film “Hum Saath Saath Hain”. His co-stars Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari have been acquitted in the same case.
The verdict has been announced 20 years after the incident took place.
So who are these Bishnois (the nature-loving sect of Vishnu-worshippers) who brought down Salman Khan to his knees?
It is believed that back in the late 15th Century a preacher called Guru Jambeshwar established the sect. While some believe the term ‘Bishnoi’ is a derivative of Vishnu, the principal deity of the Bishnois, others believe it means twenty (Bish) nine (noi) in a local Rajasthani dialect. This implies to a list of 29 rules laid down by Jambeshwar, which till date are followed by people of the Bishnoi community.
Out of these 29 principles, eight have to do with preserving biodiversity and animal husbandry. The 22nd commandment relates to protecting animals and this is is what drove the Bishnois to push for Salman Khan’s arrest and conviction in the Chinkara and blackbuck cases. “Provide shelters for abandoned animals to avoid them from being slaughtered in abattoirs,” the commandment reads.
Other commandments that encourage Bishnois to preserve nature are the 23rd (Do not sterilise bull), 28th (Do not eat meat, always remain pure vegetarian) and 29th (Don’t use violet blue colour extracted from the indigo plant).
The Bishnoi Sabha was against the acquittal of actors Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam Kothari and Sonali Bendre in the case.