Mumbai: Upset with the backlash over killing of Tigress Avni, known as T-1, Sudhir Mungantiwar, minister for forest has challenged union minister for women and child welfare, Maneka Gandhi to appoint any national or international agency to probe the matter. “Gandhi can initiate probe headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge, I am willing to face such a probe.”
However, Mungantiwar questioned Gandhi’s silence over a similar killing of a tiger in her own backyard in 2009. “Shafat Ali Khan has been appointed by many states. In 2009, Shafat was hired to kill a man-eater tiger in Pilibhit, Gandhi’s constituency. Now she is upset with our action. In fact I request Gamdhi to bring a ban on Ali across the country.
He further refuted the allegations made against him of having given permission to kill the tigress. Mungantiwar said, “As per the Wildlife Protection Act and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) no minister or a secretary can give orders to shoot a tiger. This order can only be given by the NCTA, which asked first to tranquillise Avni and if needed, shoot her. We followed this procedure.”
The minister said that the orders to capture Avni were given when she has killed five villagers. However, an animal lover approached the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court and obtained a stay order, during which time killings rose to 13. “Out of these 13, eight were tribals and three were women. The tigress is not an enemy of the forest department, she was killed only after she had attacked those trying to tranquillise her,” said the minister.
Reacting on Maneka Gandh’s allegations, Mungantiwar said, “Shooter Shafath Ali Khan has been appointed by Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and more other states. At the time of incident, Shafath Ali was not there, but his son Asghar Ali Khan was present and he killed the tigress. He had permission to tranquillise or kill the tigress from the Principle Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF).”
He further added, According to Gandhi, if Shafath is criminal, she should demand to bring ban on him. “He was the same shooter who had killed man-eater on February 25, 2009 in Pilibhit. the PCCF of Lukhnow had appreciated Shafat Ali for killing the man-eater. He was good for Gandhi in 2009 and now became criminal for her. How can she took different stand for alike incident?” Mungantiwar raised question.
Gandhi has also alleged, Mungantiwar in his tenure has given permission to kill four tigers till now. He slammed these allegations saying, Gandhi has got her facts wrong. “In the first three cases, that is December 1995, 2006 and in August 2014, I was not the forest minister. In 2017, a man-eater tiger was tranquillised and not killed. Only on last Friday, Avni was killed to save the tribals and farmers,” asserted Mungantiwar.