'Tigress Avni (T1) was killed in hurry'
mid-day accesses strongly-worded NTCA letter asking Chief Secretary's intervention against rogue hunter
The Maharashtra Forest Department has closed the probe in the killing of tigress T1, also known as Avni, hinting that a clean-chit has been given to shooter, Asghar Ali - son of controversial shooter, Shafat Ali Khan. But, did former Chief Wildlife Warden of Maharashtra, A K Misra, deliberately delay action against the shooter?
This, even though the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and state-appointed expert committee had found severe violations by him? The committee had also found that the tigress was shot 'in a hurry by the inexperienced Asghar Ali Khan. NTCA has written a strongly worded letter to the Maharashtra Chief Secretary, stating his office should intervene.
T1 was shot at Pandharkawda in Yavatmal
'Shot taken in a hurry'
The NTCA-appointed committee had also found that the claims made by the shooter that he shot the tigress in self-defense were false. Point number 10 from its report states, "From the reconstruction of the movement of T1 and final position of the body of T1, it was moving away from the road and vehicle on its traditional walk path while it was shot. On that day the tigress was not aggressive, and the behaviour shown by the tigress was natural, as the animal was hit by a dart and they were moving towards the direction of the animal. The natural reaction of the tiger was mistaken, and the shot was taken in a hurry by inexperienced Asghar Ali Khan."
On February 6, 2019, Assistant Inspector General (NTCA) Dr Vaibhav C Mathur sent a letter to the Chief Secretary regarding the action taken with respect to the report of the NTCA.
Letter from NTCA
The copy of the letter which is with mid-day states, "Reference is invited to the subject and correspondence cited above. In this context, I am directed to inform that this authority had submitted findings of its inquiry into elimination of tiger T1 at Pandharkawda which had highlighted violations, for which action was solicited from the state of Maharashtra."
The letter states that there were several reminders to the CWW of Maharashtra. The letter also requested the Chief Secretary's office to intervene so that the issue reaches its logical conclusion. When contacted former CWW Misra said, "I've no role in prosecuting anyone. Whatever role was expected of me, I've done with full dedication and sincerely."
Director of The Corbett Foundation, Kedar Gore said, "Both fact-finding committees appointed by the Maharashtra government have concluded that there have been violations in this case. I am shocked that despite these reports, FD has given a clean chit to the hunter duo. Nothing but unnecessary political interference could have driven this. It's a mockery of democracy."
Renowned tiger expert Dr Ulhas Karanth, who was part of the state-appointed committee, said, "I am of the view that the report should be made public right away." The NTCA-appointed committee's report is in the public domain.
Environmentalist Stalin D from NGO Vanashakti said, "Obviously there has been a huge cover up at the behest of some big political entity. What should have been a severely punishable crime under the Wildlife Protection Act has been reduced to a petty non-cognisable offence to protect the guilty."
Gandhi targets Mungantiwar
UNION Minister Maneka Gandhi has come down heavily on state Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and former CWW AK Misra regarding the killing of T1. She alleged, "Both the NTCA and the state-appointed committee of experts have pointed out the lies and criminal illegalities of shooters Asghar Ali Khan, Shafat Ali Khan and the forest officers. But since Mungantiwar is directly involved in this killing and the others before it, and in the diversion of the forest in which they belong, I am not surprised that he has given a clean chit to these criminals. Even when he formed the state enquiry committee, he wanted only his people on it. Ultimately he took on board one of my recommended names but went against his advice as well." (Diversion is where a patch of forest is given for a project). Gandhi also alleged that Misra retired with full benefits instead of action against him. She said, "The Chief Minister should be held accountable for this shameful exoneration of criminals. If he did not want destruction of the forest of Yavatmal, this would not have happened."
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