The National Tiger Conservation Authority on Monday said it will conduct its own inquiry if the report it has commissioned from Maharashtra’s forest department on the killing of tigress Avni is unsatisfactory, The Hindu reported. The “man-eating tigress” was killed by the Maharashtra forest department in Yavatmal on November 2.
The authority is the highest statutory body responsible for providing funding to state governments for tiger conservation. “If we are not satisfied the animal was executed following established procedure, we will conduct our own investigation,” Arup Nayak, the authority’s director told The Hindu.
The six-year-old animal, mother to two nine-month-old cubs, had allegedly claimed at least 13 lives in Ralegaon forest in Yavatmal since June 2016.
Meanwhile, sharpshooter Shafat Ali Khan, whose son killed the tigress, has threatened to sue Union minister Maneka Gandhi for her “utterly defamatory and baseless allegations”, The Indian Express reported.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Gandhi had said the shooting was “patently illegal” and a “ghastly murder” and criticised Maharashtra Forests Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar for giving the orders to kill the animal. She also vowed to take up the matter with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Gandhi had called Shafat Ali Khan “a criminal known for supplying guns to anti-nationals and for a suspected case of murder”. “I fail to understand why a state government should even bother about such a man let alone hire his services for illegal and inhuman acts,” she said.
Khan called on Gandhi to produce evidence to back her claims. “I belong to a reputed family and I am well educated,” Khan told The Indian Express. “The minister’s slanderous tweets against me have created a lot of consternation among many of my friends, relatives and business associates. She should prove her allegations by producing evidence to prove that I was a terrorist or an anti-national. Which court has given that verdict against me? Let her produce that court order.”
The sharpshooter demanded that Gandhi apologise and step down from her post as minister. “By speaking such irresponsible language, she has proved that she doesn’t deserve to be a minister,” Khan said. “The only fake case against me was 30 years ago when a toy gun was planted on me to drag me in an Arms Act case. I was honourably acquitted by a court then. Nobody has a right to call me names 30 years after.”
Although Khan was the shooter tasked with killing Avni, his son Asgar Ali was the one who did it.
Maharashtra minister hits out at Maneka Gandhi
Sudhir Mungantiwar, who has objected to Gandhi’s criticism of the state government over the killing, on Tuesday told CNN News18 that the Union minister should quit for failing to prevent malnourishment cases in the country.
He criticised his party colleague’s failures as minister for women and child development. “So many kids are undernourished in the nation while Maneka Gandhi is the women and child development minister, she should be the one to resign,” Mungantiwar told the news channel.
On Monday, the state minister had said Gandhi “lacks information” about Avni’s shooting and that she could order a high-level inquiry if she wanted.
Fadnavis backs Mungantiwar
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told reporters on Tuesday that Mungantiwar need not resign. “The tigress had killed 13 people,” PTI quoted the chief minister as saying. “Sometimes the government has to take a tough decision. We feel sorry about having to kill Avni.”
Mungantiwar had not killed the tigress himself, the chief minister said. He added that he would speak with Gandhi and clarify the matter. “The government respects her sentiments towards wildlife and animals.”