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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

India Intelligence Report

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Salman Khan Jailed—Long Live Justice

 

Justice in India is delayed, lumpy, and selective but it works—Salman Khan the actor accused of shooting endangered animals to please girlfriends and killing roadside dwellers in inebriated state has been sentenced to 5 years by a trial court in Rajasthan. In an unusually lengthy verdict in 105 pages, the judge said he wanted to make an example of those in powerful positions or who are in famous that continue to abuse their position to commit heinous crimes with impunity. The Bishnoi tribal community which initially reported the crime and for whom the hunted deer was a religious symbol rejoiced and said they looked forward to other cases of cricketers and actors who have also committed similar crimes.

 
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This is the first on many serious crimes committed by Khan with seeming impunity. This case of shooting down a Chinkara deer the 1998 fetched him 5 years of rigorous imprisonment. In yet another incident, he shot down another endangered deer (the Black Buck) to impress a couple of girlfriends. In 2002, he murdered sleeping pavement dwellers by driving his vehicle over them in an inebriated condition. Recently, there have been reports of him trying to evict residents of a sea-facing building he had bought through harassment and endangering their lives. There are a total of 4 poaching cases against this actor and has already been sentenced to a year for one of the cases. Therefore, Khan is a habitual offender, wont to living a life above the law, with a community of fans forgiving his waywardness, and a host of producers and directors who promote his proclivity for crime.

In any other country, such shame would have made the individual retract from public view and live a life of repentance. In India, however, we have the worst criminals wanted for murder, rape, looting, dacoity, extortion, sex-offenders, and terrorism joining politics to escape the law. Worse, some of them are even featured on the Federal Cabinet.

Predictably, the Bollywood industry, probably the most unimaginative and non-economic contributing industry in India, has rallied behind Khan terming the verdict “harsh” and asking for a commute. Self-serving trial lawyers have also joined this bandwagon. Some actually suggested a two-year bond that will mean he will have to pay less than USD 100 for the crime.

As things go in India, it is very unlikely that Khan will have to go through the 5 years of rigorous imprisonment. It is very probable that his team of defense experts will appeal to a higher court, whips up protests, and funds a publicity campaign to manufacture consent and get the sentence commuted to an easier term. However, the fact that one judge dared to be counted and face the ire of money, politics, and power is enough to restore faith in justice in India. 

The question is how Indians world over will respond to this verdict. Will they follow the example of the judge or Bollywood and defense lawyers?


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