Engaging in a heated war of words with party colleague and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar challenged the Centre to set up an international panel to probe lapses, if any, into the killing of the tigress Avni.
“The honourable Union Minister could have just spent 50 paise on making a direct call to me to understand the situation. Instead, she chose to make a statement on social media based on half-truths and facts. This has hurt the morale of my staff, who are risking lives to protect the big cats in Maharashtra,” he said.
The Women and Child Development Minister had lashed out at the Maharashtra government for the “ghastly murder” of Avni.
Clarifying that he did not directly order the killing of the tigress by sharpshooters, Mr. Mungantiwar said the same father-son shooter duo — Asgar Ali and Shafat Ali Khan — had killed a man-eating tiger in Pilibhit in 2009. The Pilibhit MP and now Minister had not raised any objection then. “Moreover, the Forest Department went on to appreciate the efforts of Khan in the killing. Why did Ms. Gandhi not ban the killing then or speak out against it?” he said.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government would write to Ms. Gandhi to clarify the process followed in the killing of the tigress.