Bollywood star Salman Khan’s jeep driver in Jodhpur said on Wednesday he stands by his statement that the actor shot dead chinkaras and blackbucks in a deer hunt during the shooting of a movie in 1998.
His statement came two days after the 50-year-old actor was acquitted by the Rajasthan high court in two cases related to poaching of chinkaras when he was shooting for Hum Saath Saath Hain.
Harish Dulani, who was reported to be missing, was neither examined nor cross-examined, and it was one of the reasons for suspecting that he was a planted witness.
The 37-year-old man, who works as a commercial driver and lives in Jodhpur with his wife and two sons, said he got threats and went into hiding for some time, but dismissed the charge he didn’t go to court for examination as prosecution witness.
“I went to court, but was not examined because the defence lawyer was not present.”
In his statement to the magistrate on October 14, 1998, Dulani said Khan killed three chinkaras during deer hunts on September 26 and 28. He was driving the actor around in a Maruti Gypsy, which belonged to a local resident who had lent it to Khan.
Dulani said on the night of September 26, Khan had shot two chinkaras in Bhawad village. The actor was at the wheel, and returned to Umaid Palace Hotel after killing the animals, he claimed.
The statement says Dulani and another man took the chinkaras to another hotel for skinning, and brought the Gypsy home to clean it.
Khan allegedly went hunting again on September 27, but failed to find any animals.
On September 28, accompanied by Dulani, the actor drove the Gypsy to Ghoda farmhouse where he picked up a guard, Gordhan Singh, for the hunt, the statement says.
They allegedly went to Ujalia Bhakar village and killed a chinkara, slit its throat and returned to Ghoda farmhouse, where it was skinned. Khan then returned to his hotel with the meat, the driver said.
On September 29, Khan allegedly went hunting again, but could spot any game.
The driver said the actor tried his luck the next day and spotted a deer, but fled the scene when some locals emerged in the area.
He said the actor’s acquaintance Dushyant Singh gave him his car on October 1, and asked him to leave.
Thereafter, Singh accompanied by Khan and other actors – Saif Ali khan, Neelam, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and a spot boy — went to Kankani village where they shot two blackbucks, he alleged.
But the group was spotted by people of the local Bishnoi community, who worship and protect the animal, and took down the Gypsy’s registration number even as the stars escaped to Jodhpur. The Bishnois informed forest officers about the killing, who traced the Gypsy to its owner.
Dulani told the officers that he had accompanied Khan from September 26-30, but not on October 1.
Based on his statement, the actors were charged with killing protected wildlife, and the forest department handed the case to police on October 11, 1998.
In the high court, the defence pleaded that Dulani has not been cross-examined because he failed to obey repeated summons. The court took note of it in its judgment on Monday, acquitting the actor.