Explainer: Why Salman Khan is a prime target for notorious gangsters

This is not the first time the actor has been threatened with violence

Entertainment Desk April 15, 2024

In the wake of the shooting outside Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s Mumbai apartment on Sunday, reports have now emerged that one of the gunmen is allegedly gangster Vishal Rahul. According to reports, Vishal is known to law enforcement agencies and has links to organised crime in the region. 

As reported by India Today, Vishal was identified using CCTV footage of the area. According to the publication, sources say that Vishal is a “wanted gangster” from Gurugram, a district in the state of Haryana in India. Vishal has been associated with the gangster Rohit Godara, who in turn is associated with the notorious Lawrence Bishnoi gang. In May 2022, the gang claimed responsibility for the murder of celebrated Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala and had previously gone on record to threaten Salman with a similar fate. 

Publicity stunt or hardcore gangster wrath? 

Reports in Indian media stated that hours after the early morning shooting on Sunday, Anmol Bishnoi, brother of jailed gangster Lawrence, who is serving time in a jail in Tihar, claimed responsibility for the most recent shooting outside Salman’s apartment. In a social media post, Anmol warned that the shooting was “only a trailer”, and that the next time, it would be Salman himself who was shot. 

Whilst the Bollywood hitmaker has not yet released a statement, Economic Times reported that Salman’s father Salim has remained calm in the face of the shootings, and dismissed the threats as nothing but a publicity stunt. “There is nothing to tell,” stated Salim. “They just want publicity, there is no need to worry.”  However, in anticipation of more attacks, it has been reported that Salman has acquired a gun licence for personal protection and invested in a bullet-proof vehicle, since he is no stranger to attracting the attention of gangs known to resort to violence.

History of threats  

Since the incident, security measures have been heightened in the vicinity of the actor’s residence. However, this is not the first time the Tiger actor has faced the wrath of gunmen. Pinkvilla reported that in March 2023, Salman’s manager received an email with threats directed at the actor. Sent from one Mohit Garg’s account, the email contained threats made by gangster Lawrence, who was incarcerated in a Tihar jail at the time. The email went on to demand Salman arrange a meeting with Goldy Brar, who was affiliated with Lawrence and operating from Canada. As a result, an FIR was lodged against Lawrence, Goldy, and Mohit.
Meanwhile, the publication added that in April 2023, Salman went on to receive yet another threat, this time by a man in Jodhpur from Rajasthan representing a cow protection group. On April 30, Mumbai police received a call from an individual identifying himself as Rocky Bhai, threatening a direct attack on the actor. An investigation was launched, resulting in a 16-year-old male from Thane being apprehended in connection with the case. 

Threats against the beloved Bollywood hero also go back to 2022. In June that year, father Salim discovered a threatening letter targeting his son at Bandra Bandstand, a route Salim is known to go walking along. The letter made references to the murder of celebrated Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala, who had been killed in May earlier that year, and warned that Salman would suffer a similar fate. 

Whilst unconfirmed by Mumbai police, a separate Punjab police investigation revealed that at the time the letter was received, Salman had been the target of surveillance by two individuals, who had been keeping tabs on his Panvel farmhouse and rented a room nearby for a month. Previously, Salman had also received threats in 2018 by the same gang for violating religious sentiments. 

The incident that started it all 

Reports have been documented that threats against Salman stretch back to 1998 when the actor was linked to the killing of a blackbuck during shooting for the film Hum Saath Saath Hain in Rajasthan, which was released the following year in 1999. In the Bishnoi community, blackbucks hold sacred value, leading to almost immediate unwanted gangster attention against the actor. 

However, similar to the statement issued by Salim Khan of late, law enforcement agencies who have investigated organised crime have maintained that gangs are known to target high-profile individuals, and often make threats to gain publicity and “force victims into paying protection fees.”  

In the face of the all-prevalent tentacles of organised crime in the region and despite being the subject of various threats over the years, Salman continues to remain a well regarded public figure in Indian cinema. The actor was last seen in Tiger 3, which was released in November 2023, and recently announced his upcoming movie Sikandar, scheduled to be released next year on Eid 2025.

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