Cops battle media crews to get clicked with hit-and-run accused Salman

Bollywood actor Salman Khan may or may not be a drunken hit-and-run driver, but his star appeal in India was confirmed during his court appearance in Mumbai on Wednesday, when policemen deployed for crowd control were seen getting themselves photographed with the 'hero'.

Media photographers were irate as they were kept off even as the cops enjoyed the moment. "Why aren't you letting us click pictures when you yourself were asking the star to pose for photographs with you," one of them tellingly asked, even as a scuffle erupted between the police and the media persons, where the equipment of a few photographers was damaged.

Salman Khan is accused of running down a group of people sleeping on a pavement in Bandra in 2002, in which one person was killed. He has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The next hearing of the case was scheduled by the court for 19 May.

The scenes with Salman, while amusing to educated people, are merely a reflection of the power that Bollywood moves hold over the masses. Earlier, police had to be pulled up for star-gazing at Sunjay Dutt – perhaps an even bigger Bollywood 'hero' than Salman. Dutt has been sentenced for possessing illegal firearms; but those supposed to treat him as a criminal are falling over themselves just to shake his hand.

Salman Khan's Toyota Land Cruiser ran over homeless men sleeping on the pavement near the American Express Bakery in Bandra, killing one person and injuring four others.

Three victims identified him in the court. The witnesses told the court that they saw the actor get off his car on 28 September 2002 after the accident.

The three witnesses, who deposed Tuesday, were Manu Khan, Mohammed Kalim Iqbal Pathan and Muslim Shaikh. All of them worked at the bakery which the car ultimately ran into.

While Pathan, who was injured in the incident, told the court that he saw Salman get out of the driver's seat, the other two did not mention this. But one of the witnesses repeated the accusation that has been doing the rounds for some time now, that Salman is trying to buy silence.

One of the witnesses said after the hearing that he had refused an offer of Rs5 lakh to turn 'hostile', which in India means changing their testimony at the last minute.