Tukhm-e-tasir, sohbat-e-asar

It is the social mileu and lineage that chisel human character.

In the year 1915, a hundred years ago, India was entirely in the grip of the British. That same year, Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa. Salman Khan’s grandfather would join the police service of Holkar the following year. He was appointed DSP and was considered a brilliant officer… He must have been 5 feet 7 inches tall, with fair skin and pink cheeks. Rashid Khan had long moustaches and an overbearing appearance. A glow just like any Afghani.

Salman Khan was born at 10:45 a.m. on 27th December, 1965 in Kalyanmal Nursing Home in Indore. Salman hopped between many schools, but Indore remained a part of his life. Salman’s childhood friend Dalla works as a labourer in the fields of Bardari village today. His eyes still shine at the memory of childhood days spent with the future superstar. According to Dalla, his aim was so precise that he could take a shot at a flying bird and bring it down; he is delighted that Salman still remembers him for this.

The Bandra Bandstand and Hotel Sea Rock were Salman’s favourite places in Mumbai in the 1980s. People say Sangeeta was a regular visitor to the same health club at Hotel Sea Rock where Salman used to go. The media was rife with speculation about Salman’s and Sangeeta’s marriage. It was left for others to conclude that the one who wrecked the relationship was Somy Ali. Somy Ali was just sixteen when she entered Bollywood in 1992. Dharmendra signed her for Jaan opposite Bobby Deol. However, Salman enticed her away with his friendship. The moment she quit Dharmendra’s movie, she became Salman’s heroine in the movie Buland. Somy Ali’s departure from Salman’s life brought Aishwarya closer to him. In a press release, Aishwarya said, ‘for my well being and for the self-respect of my family, I will not work with Mr. Salman Khan. The chapter of Salman Khan was a nightmare in my life. I am thankful that it is over now.’ Katrina Kaif entered Salman’s life when he was still smarting from this heartbreak. The ravishing beauty was just nineteen when she entered Bollywood in 2003. Salman’s and Katrina’s first movie together was Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya? which hit the screen in 2005. On 25th August 2007, Salman was arrested in the blackbuck poaching case dating back to 1998. Salman was lodged in Jodhpur Central Jail where Katrina came to see him along with his family. In fact, she stayed at Jodhpur until Salman was released on bail. Salman has been accused of being high-handed with his girlfriends more than once. However, unlike Somy Ali and Aishwarya Rai, Katrina Kaif has never complained publicly. Every relationship of Salman’s has ended in a break-up. People say his rage and possessive nature are to be blamed for this.

Then there’s Amitabh Bachchan describing Salman Khan by quoting a song from the movie Naseeb: Yaroon ka main yaar, dushmano ka dushman. Indeed, Salman’s rivalries have been no less intense than his love affairs. He is often viewed as impulsive and temperamental. Vivek Oberoi went on to say that Salman Khan was mentally disturbed and his family should get him treated. The press conference created a furore. But Aishwarya did not utter even a single word about her relationship with Vivek when the controversy was raging. Later, Vivek realized his mistake and sought Salman’s pardon for years, sometimes from public platforms. However, Salman never looked back at him. The question also remains: why has he not forgiven Vivek Oberoi even now?

In Kankani village, situated twenty kilometres from Jodhpur, the Bishnoi community is still fighting a legal battle against Salman. Senior journalist Vjay Vidrohi has covered the cases against Salman Khan in Jodhpur for a long time. According to him, rumours that Salman’s side was trying to bribe the judge harmed his case a lot. Bishnois are among the influential communities in Rajasthan.

An airgun mounted with a telescopic sight, pellets and a camera with rolls of film were found in room number 508 of Umaid Bhawan Palace where Salman stayed. According to Vidrohi, ‘Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the then Chief Minister of Rajasthan, said, “… the problem with the case is that there are three Muslims involved in the case: Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Tabu.” He further informed that even the Prime Minister of Pakistan had called him requesting leniency for these people.’

There was an organized syndicate of guides in the city. Some of them were also employed at the Umaid Bhawan Palace which is owned by the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh, reverently called Baapji. Vidrohi says: These guides take the tourists to watch blackbuck herds drinking water. Some tourists take the bait and hunt them. Others are enticed to watch deer being shot by the guides. Salman Khan has been fighting cases related to poaching for seventeen years. He has been to jail thrice during this period.

Poonam Chand, Chogaram, Sheraram and Mangilal Bishnoi are the main eyewitnesses in the Kankani poaching case. Their versions of events are almost the same, except for two striking inconsistencies. First, Mangilal claims he woke up upon hearing the commotion and then alerted Sheraram, whereas Sheraram says he saw the Gypsy and then heard gunshots. It was then he woke up Mangilal. Secondly, if Mangilal is to be believed, they saw the carcasses at night and they guarded them the whole night. However, Sheraram contradicts him by saying that they found the dead deer only in the morning. One more inconsistency in the account of the witnesses draws our attention. As per the complaint, Poonam Chand and Chogaram only followed the Gypsy, they never confronted it. So how were they able to identify the people sitting in the Gypsy, that too in the dark. There are several questions related to Salman’s blackbuck poaching cases that may always remain unanswered.

Jasim Khan, Being Salman (Penguin Viking, translated by Deepak Sharma, 2015).