The killing of the man-eating tigress Avni has triggered a full blown war of words between the forest minister in Maharashtra and union minister Maneka Gandhi, both belonging to the BJP. A day after Maneka Gandhi called the killing a "ghastly murder" and a "straight case of crime", Maharashtra minister Sudhir Mungantiwar hit back with a tart response.
"I would have been happy if Maneka Gandhi had talked to me before commenting on the issue. 13 people were killed, and on the guidelines of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) the decision to kill Avni was taken," Mr Mungantiwar told news agency ANI on Monday.
"If (Maneka Gandhi) thinks any tiger or tigress should not be killed even if it is a man-eater, then the decision should be taken by the Centre," he added.
The minister said neither he nor the forest department had taken the decision to shoot Avni despite rules that require tranquilizing, capture and quarantine for the animal. The officials had been trying to capture her over a month. "When they tranqulised the tigress, she attacked the officials. So they had to shoot her. It will be wrong to doubt the integrity of the forest officials," said the minister.
Maneka Gandhi had on Sunday ripped into the minister for using what she was quoted as calling a "trigger happy shooter" to kill Avni. "Despite several requests from many stakeholders, Sudhir Mungantiwar, ordered the killing," she said in a tweet, pledging to take it up "very strongly" with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
"I am definitely going to take up this utter lack of empathy for animals as a test case - legally, criminally as well as politically," said the union minister.
The tiger killing has taken a political turn with Congress president Rahul Gandhi's tweet appearing to take a dig at the BJP-led Maharashtra government.
The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 5, 2018
The Shiv Sena, in an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamna, said: "If one inserts his hand inside a snake's burrow, it is but natural that it will bite the person. The same is happening in the case of wild animals. Humans have intruded the space of tigers. It has become difficult for tigers to live."
(With inputs from ANI & PTI)