Mumbai (AFP) – Hundreds of disbelieving fans flocked to the home of Bollywood superstar Salman Khan on Thursday in protest against the five-year jail term given on the action hero for poaching endangered antelopes.
Khan’s army of devotees took selfies outside the Galaxy apartment complex in the Indian film capital Mumbai as their hero was taken off to spend the night in jail in Rajasthan.
Police set up barricades outside the building overlooking the Arabian Sea where actors and tycoons are the main residents.
The Bollywood elite also rallied behind the 52-year-old star of blockbusters such as “Sultan” and one of the world’s most highly paid actors.
Many fans were angry and stunned at the jail term imposed by a court in the Rajasthan city of Jodhpur over the killing of two rare black bucks 20 years ago.
Mohammad Arif Khan, 26, travelled from his home in Uttar Pradesh vowing to spend three days in Mumbai in the hope that his hero will be released.
“Khan’s absence will have a big impact and mistakes do happen. But he has paid for his crimes and shouldn’t be made to go to jail. The decision is extremely appalling and not a good one,” he said.
“Salman Khan is a good man and a humanitarian who runs his own charity helping people.”
– ‘A great star’ –
He added: “The court and the government should take note of all his good deeds as his absence will affect not just Bollywood but also those in need of help and who get assistance from his charity.”
Many fans wore “Being Human” t-shirts named after his charity.
Seventeen-year-old student Abdul Rashid said Khan’s “loyal fans” will stand by him.
“I am not sure where our justice system is headed as the … punishment doesn’t feel justified for killing an animal. I was at the airport last night and met Salman. He waved at us. He is such a great star and impacts all our lives by helping needy people. He should not be punished.”
Sagar Raza Khan, a 50-year-old writer, said the verdict had come out of the blue as the case has been going on so long.
“He’s already suffered enough and should not have to go through it again. His family will again face a lot of suffering if he is incarcerated. Plus his impact on Bollywood is too huge to be ignored.”
Sheikh Alimuddin, 43, travelled from rural Maharashtra to get to Khan’s home.
“Khan is an epitome of kindness and has helped cancer patients and children requiring medical assistance. There are numerous ongoing cases where the guilty have not been punished.”
Alimuddin called the court guilty verdict and punishment “sensationalised”.
Jaya Bachchan, a veteran Bollywood actor and lawmaker, said so much money was invested in Khan’s films that “there will be losses.”
“After 20 years, they have realised he is guilty. But law takes its own course, what can one say. He does a lot of charity. I am worried for the producers,” Bachchan told reporters.
Leading Bollywood director Subhash Gai said he was “extremely shocked” at the jail term.
Gai called Khan “a most loved person” in the film industry, but also said he had “full trust” in India’s appeal procedure.
Actor Arjun Rampal said on Twitter he felt “helpless” over the action taken against Khan.
“The last thing @BeingSalmanKhan is, is a criminal. I feel this is too harsh. I do hope he gets the relief he deserves.”