On Thursday afternoon, actor Salman Khan broke down when the Bombay High Court acquitted him of all the charges. Watching the news in a small room of a slum colony in Malvani, Firoz Shaikh, 25, also broke down.
Shaikh is the son of Noorullah Khan, who was crushed under the wheels of the actor’s car in September 2002. “I forgive Salman, but now I don’t know who killed my father. It has been 13 years… even today, the question remains unanswered. The verdict has not brought any closure,” Shaikh told The Indian Express.
“In my view, his act was not intentional. It was an accident, and my father happened to be the unfortunate victim… the sentencing serves no purpose,” said Shaikh, who claims he is a fan of the actor.
“Firoz has two children… if Salman buys him a small grocery shop, he would be in a position to feed his family. His father died when he was just 12 years old and I had to stop his studies so that he could support the family. Since then, he has been doing odd jobs. So any kind of financial help will help my family,” said his mother, Begum Jahan, 48.
Stating that the verdict had disappointed her, she said: “There is ample evidence to show that Salman Khan was driving the vehicle. Despite that, he lied to the court and got his driver to take the blame. We are poor, but that does not mean our lives are worthless.”
Far away, in a village on the outskirts of Lucknow, Mannu Khan, a key witness, is also disappointed by the verdict. Calling it “a murder of justice”, he said the court had let off “a murderer”. Mannu was sleeping on the footpath when the vehicle killed his friend, Noorullah, and left him injured.
“After 13 long years, we were given partial justice by his conviction earlier this year. Now we have been given nothing in terms of justice. If the government and courts have decided to let him go, then what can I do,” he said. “I gave my statement to the court… I was clear that he (Salman Khan) got off from the driver’s side but that is irrelevant today,” he added.
Another injured, Abdulla Sheikh, who lost his lower limbs in the accident, said “gross injustice” had been done. “The court kept us hanging for 13 years and we were hoping for a punishment… I have lost my ability to work but not my spirit. I have a family that I feed… I am still the sole breadwinner,” he said.
Rizwan Rakhangi, the then manager of Rain Bar who had said he had seen the actor hold a glass of “white liquid” but could not confirm if it was liquor, said he was “happy and satisfied”.
“For the last 13 years, my family has been terribly troubled by the police as the case would open, close, open again. We are happy as we won’t be bothered again and I am satisfied by the court’s order. I would not like to comment on whether justice has been served,” said Rakhangi.