Members of the community, which revers black bucks, burnt Khan’s effigy in Jodhpur on Thursday, demanding withdrawal of the Padma Shri to him and citing the pending court case against him under the Wildlife Protection Act for killing two black bucks.
Saif Ali Khan, Salman Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and one more person were accused of the hunting on the outskirts of Jodhpur during the shooting of Sooraj Barjatya’s “Hum Saath Saath Hain” in October, 1988.
With Bishnoi community members vowing to continue protests till the award is withdrawn, the controversy might get bigger, especially with Chatwal’s Padma Bhushan already attracting criticism from several quarters.
While the Home Ministry has defended the honour to Chatwal, it is yet to make any comment regarding the award to Khan vis-à-vis the controversy.
Khan’s mother, Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chairperson and actress Sharmila Tagore, and father ‘Tiger’ Pataudi are both known to be close to the ruling Congress, which incidentally said after the Chatwal controversy that Padma awards should not be conferred on any “tainted” person.
Bishnoi organisations like the Community for Wildlife and Rural Development (COWRD) and Bishnoi Tiger Vanyajeev Evam Paryavaran Sansthan (BTVPS) have said they would write to the Prime Minister and the President protesting Saif Ali Khan’s award.
Another Bishnoi organisation, the Guru Jambeshwar Vanya Jeev Paryavaran Vikas Sansthan, as well as its youth wing, Vishnoi Commando Force (VCF), have threatened to continue protests till the award is withdrawn.
The controversy has come in the backdrop of Khan’s reported comment that he felt “underserving” of the award since there were others much more deserving than him.
“Honestly speaking, I feel really humbled and undeserving on being awarded the Padma Shri. It isn’t something that I had asked for and since Government of India has done this for me, all I can do is to deliver my best and live up to it,” Khan has been quoted as saying.
“May be I wasn’t really worthy of it. There are many people who deserve it much more me,” he said in Mumbai.