Maneka Gandhi, the Union Women and Child Development Minister, lashed out at the Maharashtra government over the killing of tigress Avni.

In a series of tweets, the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader termed the killing of the tigress a “ghastly murder” and slammed Maharashtra Minister of Forests Sudhir Mungantiwar for giving the order for the killing of the tigress.

Avni, a five-year old alleged man-eater tigress who had created terror in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha forests, was shot dead on Saturday in Yavatmal district. Authorities said that she was responsible for the deaths of 13 people in the past two years.

“I am deeply saddened by the way tigress Avni has been brutally murdered in #Yavatmal, #Maharashtra. #Justice4TigressAvni,” Gandhi said in a tweet.

Charging Mungantiwar, Gandhi wrote that in spite of several requests from many stakeholders, the Minister of Forests, Maharashtra, gave orders for the killing. She added that the Minister “has been doing this regularly and this is the third tiger being murdered besides several leopards and wild boars”.

“It is nothing but a straight case of crime,” she said,

The 62-year-old MP from Pilibhit also questioned the use of Hyderabad-based shooter Shafat Ali Khan in the killing of the tigress. She said that Mungantiwar has always used the services of the shooter.

“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,” Gandhi said.

According to reports, it was Asgar, the son of Shafat Ali, who shot Avni dead at compartment no 149 of Borati forest under the jurisdiction of the Ralegaon police station.

“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 Sh @SMungantiwar,” alleged Gandhi.

 

In another tweet, Gandhi called Shafat Ali Khan “a criminal”.

“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,” the Union minister said.

 

Announcing her decision to take up the killing of Avni “legally, criminally as well as politically”, Gandhi said that she fails to understand why a state government should hire Khan’s services for “illegal and inhuman acts”.

Drawing attention to Avani’s two cubs, Gandhi said that the “ghastly murder has put two cubs at the edge of a sad death in the absence of their mother”.

The minister concluded by saying that she will also take up the matter with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Avni’s death came after nearly three months of a massive tigress-hunt along with trap cameras, drones, a pack of trained sniffer dogs and a hang-glider along with a team of forest department officials and spotters.

A fertile and healthy tigress, she was protecting her two 10-month old dependent cubs in the vicinity of the Tippeshwar Tiger Sanctuary, since the past several weeks till she was shot down.

Wildlife activist and medico Jerryl A Banait, who had filed a public interest litigation jointly with NGO Earth Brigade Foundation (EBF), said that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)’s rules have been grossly violated in the killing of Avni.

Read More: Tigress Avni, believed to be behind 13 death, killed

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.

Besides PILs in the Supreme Court and Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench), several wildlife groups and activists had strongly opposed plans to eliminate Avni since it would also mean near-certain death for her two dependent young ones.