Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi on Sunday attacked the BJP-led Maharashtra government for the “ghastly murder” of man-eating tigress Avni, saying a shooter who was sent behind bars for illegally supplying arms to terrorists was deputed to kill the animal.
In a strongly worded statement, Gandhi said Hyderabad sharp-shooter Nawab Shafat Ali did not kill Avni on his own but asked his son Asgar Ali to carry out the “illegal” attack.
“His son was not authorised to kill. This is patently illegal. Despite the forest officials being committed to tranquilise, capture and quarantine the tigress, the trigger-happy shooter has killed her on his own under direct orders of Sh Sudhir Mungantiwar [Maharashtra Forest Minister]. The tigress was a mother. Now her two cubs will also die,” she said.
Calling it a “straight case of crime”, Gandhi questioned the links between the minister and the “terrorist” shooter. She said, “Despite requests from his own forest department and people all over India, Mungantiwar gave orders for the killing.”
Gandhi added, “This is the third tiger being killed on directions of the minister. Earlier, a dozen leopards and 300 wild boars have been killed on his directions. I am shocked that such a person is continuing to hold a ministerial position.”
The minister said she would write to the Maharashtra chief minister to take strong action in the matter and would take up the issue “legally, criminally as well as politically”.
Tigress Avni, who is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people in the past two years, was killed in Maharashtra's Yavatmal on Friday as part of an operation. Avni is survived by her two cubs who are 10 months old.
She was shot dead by Asgar Ali at compartment no 149 of Borati forest under the jurisdiction of the Ralegaon police station.
Reacting to the allegations, Sudhir Mungantiwar said Avni was shot dead as the last resort when all attempts to tranquilise her failed and she attacked officials. Mungantiwar said nobody in the Forest Department wanted to kill the tigress and, thus, hundreds of personnel from the department were trying to capture her alive since the last 3 months. He said that her statement was made due to lack of information.
"I would have been happy if Maneka Gandhi had asked for the information from me before commenting on the issue. Many people had died in the area before the decision was taken to kill the tigress,” Mungantiwar said.
“She is a union minister. She can change the law of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTC) saying that no animal should be killed even if it's a man-eater," he added.
Commenting on the Gandhi's statements on Hyderabad sharp-shooter Shafat Ali, he said, Ali had been appointed by Bihar government recently.