Union Minister Maneka Gandhi today lashed out at the BJP-led Maharashtra government for ordering the "ghastly murder" of a tigress that was believed to have killed 13 people in the last two years. She also promised to take up the matter with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at the earliest.
The tigress -- known as Avni -- was shot dead by Asgar Ali, the son of famed sharp-shooter Nawab Shafat Ali, at Borati forest in Yavatmal district on Friday. It left behind two 10-month-old cubs.
The Union Minister alleged in a series of tweets that Asgar Ali's act of shooting down the tiger was "patently illegal" because he was not authorised to kill. "It's nothing but a straight case of crime. Despite requests from many stakeholders, Maharashtra Minister for Forests Sudhir Mungantiwar gave orders for the killing," she said. "I am definitely going to take up this case of utter lack of empathy for animals as a test case... legally, criminally and politically."
Ms Gandhi also questioned the Maharashtra government's decision to hire Nawab Shafat Ali and his son for hunting down Avni. "Shafat Ali has killed three tigers, at least 10 leopards, a few elephants and 300 wild boars in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. He is a criminal known for supplying guns to anti-nationals and is involved in a suspected case of murder in Hyderabad," she said in another tweet. "I fail to see why a state government should even bother about such a man, let alone hire his services for illegal and inhuman acts."
The fate of the two cubs left behind by Avni was a matter of concern, the Union Minister said. "This ghastly murder has put two cubs on the edge of a sad death in the absence of their mother," she added.
Mr Mungantiwar, however, said the tigress was shot dead as a last resort. "Hundreds of forest department personnel have been trying to capture the beast alive for the last three months, but they were attacked each time. We decided to kill the tigress only after all attempts to tranquilise it failed," he added.
The Supreme Court had directed in September that Avni be shot at sight. This prompted a flurry of online petitions seeking that the tigress be pardoned.
(With inputs from PTI)