Mumbai: After spending two nights in a Jodhpur jail, superstar Salman Khan returned home to a hero’s welcome with thousands of fans lined up at the Mumbai Airport and outside his Bandra home here on Saturday evening.
Several thousands, ranging from toddlers in arms to youth, elderly men and women, many carrying placards and banners with Salman’s pictures had been waiting after he was granted bail by Jodhpur Session Court Judge R.K. Joshi in a 1998 case of blackbuck poaching.
Loud screams of joy went up with frantic waving and clicking pictures on mobiles as soon as an apparently healthy and cheerful Salman stepped out of the Mumbai Airport after alighting from Jodhpur by a chartered flight.
Sporting a dark t-shirt, a cap, he was accompanied by his sisters Alvira and Arpita, besides his omnipresent personal bodyguard Shera.
For that ‘Being Human’ touch, Salman carried Arpita’s one-year old son, who appeared bewildered by all the noisy attention his famous ‘Mamu’ was getting.
Despite frenzied catcalls, shouts of ‘Salman Khan Zindabad’ from the fans, the family quickly stepped into their waiting vehicles without any public interactions.
En route, some daring fans even attempted to follow his motorcade, but at one point when the vehicles halted due to traffic congestion, Shera and his team of bouncers were seen firmly requesting them to avoid speeding after them in the heavy evening traffic.
Police had a tough time controlling the huge crowds of fans both at the airport and outside his residence, the landmark seafacing Galaxy Apartments Bandra west.
At both the venues, many fans, especially young girls and elderly women, could be seen unabashedly shedding tears of joy and relief as their favourite star finally returned home from the 20-year old legal ordeal that culminated in a five-year jail sentence for killing the protected blackbucks in 1998.
There were huge celebratory fireworks by his fans outside his home and the entire area witnessed traffic jams.
A refreshed-looking Salman just stepped out to his balcony and acknowledged all his fans with folded hands in a ‘namaste’, beaming, smiling, waving both hands with his parents, sisters, nephew and others. It was a brief photo opportunity that the fans seemed to relish.
However, animal rights organisation People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is not too happy.
Manilal Valliyate, CEO, PETA India said in a statement: “While Salman Khan gets to go back home to his movie star life for now, blackbucks were made to pay the highest price, with their lives.”
Salman was sentenced to imprisonment on Thursday for killing two blackbucks in Kankani village, near Jodhpur in Rajasthan, while shooting for the Bollywood film “Hum Saath Saath Hain” almost 20 years ago. Blackbucks are protected under the wildlife laws.
His co-actors Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Saif Ali Khan, Neelam Kothari and Sonal Bendre, allegedly accompanied him during poaching, but were acquitted.
Salman, one of Bollywood’s highest earning stars, was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 50,000. He will have to secure special permission from court if he plans to travel outside the country.