Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi on Sunday lashed out at the BJP-led Maharashtra government over the "ghastly murder" of man-eating tigress Avni, calling it a "straight case of crime".
Tigress Avni, who is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 13 people in the past two years, was killed in Maharashtra's Yavatmal on Friday as part of an operation. Avni is survived by her two cubs who are 10 months old.
She was shot dead by sharp-shooter Asgar Ali, son of famous sharp-shooter Nawab Shafat Ali, at compartment no 149 of Borati forest under the jurisdiction of the Ralegaon police station.
Reacting to the killing of Avni, Ms Gandhi in a series of tweets lashed out at the Maharashtra government for giving the orders to kill her despite opposition from several stakeholders.
"I am deeply saddened by the way tigress Avni has been brutally murdered in Yavatmal," she said in a tweet.
"It is nothing but a straight case of crime. Despite several requests from many stakeholders, (Sudhir) Mungantiwar, Minister for Forests, Maharashtra, gave orders for the killing," she said in another tweet.
She said she is going to take up the matter "very strongly" with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
"I am definitely going to take up this case of utter lack of empathy for animals as a test case. Legally, criminally as well as politically," she said.
She also came down heavily on Mr Mungantiwar for giving order to private marksman Shafat Ali Khan's son to carry out the hunting operation.
"Every time he has used Hyderabad-based shooter Shafat Ali Khan, and this time his son has also appeared in the scene illegally to murder the tigress," she said in a tweet.
"His son was not authorised to kill. This is patently illegal. Despite the forest officials being committed to tranquilise, capture and qurantine the tigress, the trigger-happy shooter has killed her on his own under orders of Mungantiwar," she tweeted.
"Shafat Ali Khan has killed 3 tigers, at least 10 leopards, a few elephants and 300 wild boar in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. He is a criminal known for supplying guns to anti-nationals and for a suspected case of murder in Hyderabad," she said in another tweet.
She questioned Maharastra government's decision to take services of Mr Khan and his son.
"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.
Ms Gandhi also expressed concern over the well being of the two cubs left behind after the killing of their mother.
"This ghastly murder has put two cubs at the edge of a sad death in the absence of their mother," she said.
Meanwhile, Mr Mungantiwar Sunday said, Avni was shot dead as a last resort when all attempts to tranquilise her failed and she attacked officials.
Speaking to PTI, Mr Mungantiwar said nobody in the Forest Department wanted to kill the tigress and, thus, hundreds of personnel from the department were trying to capture her alive since the last 3 months.
In September this year, the Supreme Court had said Avni could be shot at sight, which prompted a flurry of online petitions seeking pardon for the tigress.