Tigress Avni (T1) shot dead: Maneka Gandhi guns for forest minister's head

Nov 05, 2018, 07:20 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Union minister furious with Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar for involving controversial shooter, whose son finally killed Pandharkawda tigress Avni (T1) in cold blood

Tigress Avni (T1) shot dead: Maneka Gandhi guns for forest minister's head
While Nawab Shafat Ali Khan was roped in for the operation, it was his son Asghar who killed the tigress

Union minister Maneka Gandhi, a known wildlife lover, is furious with Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar - for handling the issue of Tigress T1 (popularly known as Avni) badly and for involving trigger-happy shooter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan - and is not about to rest without ensuring that action is taken against him.

The Union minister has been closely monitoring the case and had expressed her displeasure at Khan's involvement. She had taken a serious note of the series of reports in mid-day, which had also highlighted that Principal Chief Conservator of Forests – Wildlife A K Misra had sent a senior woman forest department officer to Khan's hotel at night to apologise over a perceived slight.

Following the Union minister's intervention, Mungantiwar had sent Khan back, only to call him back a week later. Following the death of T1, shot by Khan's son Asghar, the state forest department, Mungantiwar, Misra and others who had supported removal of the problem tigress have been facing a lot of flak from wildlife lovers on social media.

A handout photo released by the forest department showing the dead body of the tigress
A handout photo released by the forest department showing the dead body of the tigress

'On a killing spree'
When mid-day contacted the Union minister, she replied, "I am deeply saddened by the way tigress Avni has been murdered by a professional anti-national killer at the behest of a trigger-happy minister in Yavatmal. It is nothing but a straight case of crime. Despite requests from his own forest department and people all over India, Mungantiwar gave the order to kill."

She also pointed out that Mungantiwar had been taking such decisions regularly, and yet, he continued to hold the portfolio. "This is the third tiger killed, besides dozens of leopards and 300 wild boars. He has been on a killing spree since he became minister, and I am shocked that such a man is allowed to hold this portfolio," her message to mid-day read.

Maneka Gandhi and Sudhir Mungantiwar
Maneka Gandhi and Sudhir Mungantiwar

'Killed on minister's order'
On the controversial shooter from Hyderabad, she added, "This time, his son, who was not authorised to kill, appeared on the scene to shoot the tigress. This is patently illegal. Despite the forest officials being committed to tranquillise, capture and quarantine the tigress, she was killed. Now, her two cubs will also die.

Nawab Shafat Ali Khan
Nawab Shafat Ali Khan

"Thousands of people have objected to a minister consorting with a man accused of murder and selling arms to anti-nationals against the advice of his own department and colleagues. How much was Shafat paid? The last time he was here, he'd assaulted a female forest officer and had to be removed. Why was he brought back? Why was his son allowed to roam around with a gun? Why was the Madhya Pradesh expert sent back? Mungantiwar has no answers because there are none. The law has been broken to accommodate one criminal friend of a minister."

Search on for the cubs
The forest department has started a search operation for the tigress's cubs. A staffer, who did not wish to be named, said, "The biggest challenge in front of us is to capture the cubs alive; however, there have been no sighting for the last two days. The teams are patrolling in the area but haven't had much luck."

On Saturday, PCCF A K Misra had told mid-day that the search operation to trap the cubs alive will continue, and bait cages along with other techniques will be tried to catch them safely.

Also Read: Avni (T1) tigress shot dead in Yavatmal: Was it murder or self defence?

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