Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt broke down in tears on Thursday as he announced he was abandoning his battle to avoid being sent back to jail for buying weapons from Mumbai gangsters.
Supporters had been urging Dutt to apply for a pardon after India’s Supreme Court last week sentenced him to five years for buying firearms from mafia bosses who orchestrated a series of bombings in 1993 which killed 257 people.
But in an emotional press conference, flanked by family members, Dutt said he would accept his fate and surrender to prison authorities before a deadline expires in three weeks’ time.
“I will surrender...the court has given me time,” Dutt told reporters.
“With folded hands, I want to tell the media and the citizens of the country that when I have not applied for pardon, there is no debate,” Dutt said, while repeatedly breaking down.
“Let me be in peace till I go ... I have lots of work to complete,” he added.
He then hugged his sister Priya Dutt, and refused to answer media queries.
Messages of sympathy and solidarity have poured in for the star since last week’s verdict, with several high profile figures calling for the state governor to intervene and reduce Dutt’s term on “humanitarian grounds”.
The 53-year-old has already spent 18 months behind bars after his conviction by a lower court but he was released on bail in 2007 pending an appeal, which was struck down by the court last Thursday.
Dutt, whose mother was Muslim and father Hindu, has admitted to buying the weapons but insisted they were only meant to protect his family during communal riots in 1993 following the destruction of the Babri mosque.
The actor shot to fame in the mid-1980s in a string of action movies in which he performed his own stunts, earning him the nickname “Deadly Dutt”.
He is best known for playing a mobster with a heart of gold in the popular “Munnabhai” series.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2013.
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