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|October 12, 1998||
V S Srinivasan
As of now, Salman has already been arrested under the Wildlife Act after his application for bail was rejected though Saif has been granted anticipatory bail. Salman has reportedly moved a higher court, seeking anticipatory bail.
According to reports, of the five people held, Salman and Saif were granted interim anticipatory bail that expired today by the district and session court, while Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam were arrested late on Friday night and released subsequently on bail the same night.
The team had descended on Jaipur to shoot for Sooraj Barjatya's Hum Saath Saath Hain. But they have been out hunting since October 1. The last time they were at it, the villagers caught them red-handed.
Local Bishnoi villagers consider wildlife sacred and are quick to report any transgression to the authorities.
The Bollywood stars were warned of this as soon as they came in, said a source who was at the shoot.
"When the unit came in, a local told them that poaching was not allowed and that the blackbuck was an endangered species that should not be harmed. There were even notices put up in the jungle, saying we shouldn't poach."
The Bishnois take their role as protectors of wild animals very seriously, feeding migratory birds and carefully guarding the dwindling stock of antelope from poachers. They had complained to the forest department earlier this week that the stars had been out poaching.
Based on these reports from the villagers, the forest department lay in ambush. But when they moved in the stars allegedly ran away but the driver of their vehicle was arrested. Both the animals the stars allegedly killed are endangered species. Forest officials said post-mortem examination on the deer confirmed the animals had been shot.
Karisma Kapoor, who is also part of the cast, was not present in Jodhpur when the incident occurred.
Lawyers for the actors say their clients have been falsely implicated in the case.
The World Wide Fund for Nature-India today urged the government to take the strongest possible measures to ensure that the stars are brought to book.
Yesterday, the Legal Action for Wildlife and Environment petitioned the President, also sending letters to the prime minister, the Rajasthan chief minister and the environment and forests minister, urging them to ensure that the stars used no influence to subvert the process of law.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has already constituted a high-level team to supervise and expedite investigation into the case.
The team includes Director General of Police Shyam Pratap Singh Rathore, Inspector General of Police (crime) Namo Narain Meena, a ballistic expert and a forensic science laboratory expert.
The government has also decided to conduct a fresh post-mortem of the slain animals following allegations that the first post-mortem report was misleading.
Shooting of the film, of course, has come to a standstill. The Barjatyas are crossing their fingers that a miracle will happen and the stars will be freed.
But even if they are, all that lies a long way ahead.
Additional reportage: UNI
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