Soon after Salman Khan’s conviction last Thursday, my WhatsApp messenger was full of messages from friends and peers eager to know my reaction. Coming from the Bishnoi community, I had immediate reactions in my head, but I chose not to reply and instead observe what people (also ‘Bhai’ fans) had to say on social media.
My Facebook feed was full of memes of the blackbuck committing suicide and Mr Khan going to jail. Among those who wrote lengthy posts on the conviction were people who questioned as to why the killing of an animal is such a big issue, when there are millions of human beings killed every day. The others wrote about how Hindutva politics is making the killing of animals such a big deal. I feel a lack of background research leads to such conclusions.
I have been brought up listening to the stories of how birds, calves, peacocks, fawn etc. frequent the houses of the members of the Bishnoi community and are treated as members of their families. I have been taught that it’s better to get beheaded than let somebody cut trees. The Bishnoi community follows 29 rules as their religious ideology – of which most of the rules are strictly about environment conservation.
Entering a Bishnoi community’s village and shooting their animals (whom they treat as their own kids, and where women in the community breastfeed fawns) is very similar to entering a tribal area and clearing the forests.
The Bishnoi community has been preserving their flora and fauna since ages without getting any support from the government authorities. Hence, the long fight for justice that the community fought for 20 years was for preserving its identity. The question the community raised was that who gives anybody the right to ‘manhandle’ a community’s well-preserved balance and peace with nature?
If Mr Khan had got away with it easily, others would not have hesitated in depleting the flora and fauna dear to millions of Indians living in such villages and tribal areas.
Instead of linking up the issue with Hindutva, one should ponder on a village community’s long struggle to stand firm – all for preserving its identity against an extremely wealthy Bollywood tycoon.