Tigress Avni's (T1) 'encounter' row reaches PMO
With State Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar defending kill order against Yavatmal tigress, NGO escalates issue to Narendra Modi's office
Even as the Maharashtra Forest Department's action of eliminating tigress T1 in Pandharkawda is being criticised, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has hit back at Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, saying her allegations lacked information. While he also said the decision (of killing T1) was not his or the department's, but the National Tiger Conservation Authority's, a Mumbai-based NGO has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking a CBI probe into the killing.
Mungantiwar said Maneka could have called him before levelling the allegations. "She (Maneka) could have spent 50 paise to make a call to me. I would have given her all information on the killing of tigers – not only this but the others which were hunted down when I was not a minister," he said.
Maneka Gandhi and Sudhir Mungantiwar
He said in his tenure since November 2014, the tiger population in Maharashtra had increased by 25. "The forest officials and staff are deeply hurt and demoralised by the criticism," he said. He said the officials had been trying to capture the animal for the past 50 days. "When they tried to tranquilise her, she attacked them. The bullet was fired in self-defence," he said.
Mungantiwar also dared Maneka to institute a high level inquiry. "She can ask a sitting Supreme Court judge or a committee of sitting judges to probe the incident," he said.
Mungantiwar said hunter, Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, who was assigned the job had officially killed a tiger in Maneka's Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency. He said the hunter's son, Asgar, too was officially assigned by the Maharashtra Forest Department.
'Criticism was harsh'
Labelling criticism by union minister Gandhi and others as harsh, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has assured of probing procedural lapses, if any, in the killing of T1. The CM also said that the preliminary reports received by him confirmed that the tigress was killed because she had attacked a forest official.
The union minister; Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, among others, had accused the Maharashtra government of 'murdering' the tigress. Maneka had accused the government of hiring a hunter who was found to have illegally supplied arms to terrorists.
'Forest Dept was unhappy'
Fadnavis said the BJP minister's words (on Twitter) were harsh. "But we must understand her feelings. She is not only a minister but a staunch animal rights activist first. In fact, the reaction from all people - including Thackeray and Rahul Gandhi - was also harsh," he told media persons at his official residence. Fadnavis said the forest department wasn't happy to kill the tigress. "We had to kill her because 13 people have lost their lives (in attacks). It was a tough decision. I will ask to probe the procedural objections that have been raised, particularly about the dart," he said.
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