Under fire, Fadnavis promises probe into tigress killing

Under fire from various quarters including Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday announced a probe to ascertain if there were any procedural lapses in the killing of an alleged man-eater tigress, Avni, last Saturday.

“She (Gandhi) has used harsh words, but her sentiments are understandable. All animal lovers’ sentiments are harsh on this incident. It was a very difficult decision, but whether the procedure was correct or not will be inquired into,” Fadnavis told mediapersons.

Fadnavis’ reactions came a day after Gandhi lashed out at Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar for Avni’s killing, while ruling ally Shiv Sena has termed it as an “encounter killing”, Mumbai Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam called it a “barbaric murder’ and Aam Aadmi Party condemned the tigress’ elimination in the Yavatmal forests.

As per a preliminary report of the forest department, Avni was shot dead by a professional shooter, Nawab Asghar Ali Khan, around midnight after she allegedly turned back and attacked the staff attempting to sedate her.

“There is no joy over the killing. The forest department had to take the decision since she had killed at least 13 humans. There are doubts over whether she was first shot and then the tranquiliser injected. This would be probed,” Fadnavis said.

Speaking to the media this evening, Mungantiwar dismissed the uproar over Avni’s killing as arising out of “inadequate information” and said Maharashtra had made maximum efforts towards protecting forests and tiger conservation.

“The same shooter (Khan) had killed a man-eater tiger in Pilibhit of Uttar Pradesh in 2009. The criticism is surprising and demoralizing for the forest staff, and might prove counter-productive for the ongoing efforts,” the minister said, defending himself against Gandhi’s sharp barbs on Sunday.

He said the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines were followed.

Besides, Mungantiwar said orders were challenged both in the Bombay High Court and Supreme Court and were upheld and the decision was taken only after the terror-struck people of the region stopped going out to fields fearing attacks by the tigress.

On Gandhi’s questions over the selection of the controversial shooter Khan, Mungantiwar pointed out that he was on the panel of several states and had killed a man-eater tiger in her (Maneka Gandhi’s) Pilibhit constituency nine years ago.

Gandhi had virtually demanded the sack for Mungantiwar in a series of tweets yesterday: “It is nothing but a straight case of crime. Despite requests from his own forest department and people, Sudhir Mugantiwar gave orders for the killing. This is the third tiger being killed on his directions.”

“I am shocked that such a person is continuing to hold a ministerial position. Every time he has used the Hyderabad shooter, Shafat Ali Khan and this time his son has also appeared on the scene illegally to kill the tigress. His son was not authorised to kill. This is patently illegal.”

Mungantiwar also countered this by saying that instead of complaining to the CM, the Union Minister (Gandhi) could order a high-level probe by a Supreme Court judge or a committee of sitting apex court judges to investigate the matter.

In an edit in the party mouthpieces ‘Saamana’ and ‘Dopahar Ka Saamana’ today, the ruling ally Shiv Sena slammed the state government and begged for Avni’s “forgiveness”.

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