Maneka Gandhi slams ‘ghastly murder’ of tigress T1, says she will take up matter with Devendra Fadnavishttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/maneka-gandhi-tigress-t1-avni-devendra-fadnavis-5433581/

Maneka Gandhi slams ‘ghastly murder’ of tigress T1, says she will take up matter with Devendra Fadnavis

After a 53-day hunt, Pandharkawda tigress T1 was shot dead on Friday, with several activists and wildlife experts saying it was done in violation of guidelines issued by the forest department and the Supreme Court.

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The tigress was shot dead after it killed five people in the area. (File)

Amid a controversy over the killing of tigress Avni, an alleged man-eater, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi on Sunday called it a “ghastly murder”, saying she would take up the matter strongly with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Gandhi even hit out at state Forests Minister Sudhir Mungatiwar, saying he ordered the killing of the tigress and this was the third big cat being murdered under his jurisdiction.

READ | After 53-day hunt, T1 shot, decision soon on her cubs

“It is nothing but a straight case of crime. Despite several requests from many stakeholders, Mungantiwar, Minister for Forests, Maharashtra, gave orders for the killing. I am definitely going to take up this case…legally, criminally as well as politically and will take up the matter very strongly with CM Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis,” she tweeted.

Since June 2016, 13 persons have been killed in tiger attacks in the Pandharkawda divisional forest. (File)

Defending the action to kill the tigress, Mungatiwar said all possible means were tried to capture the animal, but it had to be shot down to save the lives of forest staff trying to tranquilise her. “Ministers and secretaries do not sit in Mumbai and protect forest and animal species. It is done by farmers and Adivasis. In this case, there was a lot of unrest among them. We didn’t want them to eventually become enemies of wildlife,” PTI quoted Mungantiwar as saying.

After a 53-day hunt, Pandharkawda tigress T1 was shot dead on Friday, with several activists and wildlife experts saying it was done in violation of guidelines issued by the forest department and the Supreme Court.

Training her guns on controversial Hyderabad-based hunter Shafath Ali Khan, who was Mungantiwar’s favoured choice for the operation and has a chequered past, Gandhi said he was known criminal and had supplied guns to anti-nationals and for a suspected case of murder in Hyderabad.

Another point of contention is that the permission to shoot was in the name of Khan and not his son Asghar. Gandhi said Shafath Ali Khan’s son was not authorised to kill tigress T1, calling it “patently illegal”.

“His (Shafath Ali Khan) 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 orders of Mungantiwar,” the Union minister said.

The Supreme Court had earlier stated that the primary objective of the operation was to tranquilise and capture Avni and killing was proposed only as the last alternative.

Since June 2016, 13 persons have been killed in tiger attacks in the Pandharkawda divisional forest, five of those deaths attributed to T1.

Khan’s involvement in the operation had evoked massive protests from wildlife experts and animal rights activists. “Shafat Ali Khan has killed three tigers, at least 10 leopards, a few elephants and 300 wild boars in Chandrapur. 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.

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The case of the tigress, nicknamed ‘Avni’, had gone all the way up to the Supreme Court, pitting villagers, who wanted the tigress put down, against wildlife lovers and activists, who said there was no reason to believe T1 was a habitual human attacker.