A week af­ter T1’s mur­der, rogue hunter yet to sub­mit ri­fle

With As­ghar Ali Khan re­fus­ing to turn in his weapon, an­a­lysts un­able to com­plete bal­lis­tic, foren­sic tests; Mun­gan­ti­war, MoEF or­der probe

Mid Day - - Front Page - RAN­JEET JADHAV ran­jeet.jadhav@mid-day.com

A WEEK has passed since ti­gress T1 was killed, but the weapon used to shoot her is yet to be de­posited with the Direc­torate of Foren­sic Sci­ence and Lab­o­ra­to­ries for the manda­tory bal­lis­tic tests. The de­lay has raised sev­eral ques­tions in the minds of wildlife lovers and ac­tivists. On Fri­day, both For­est Min­is­ter Sud­hir Mun­gan­ti­war and the MoEF an­nounced an in­quiry into T1’s killing, to find out whether guide­lines were fol­lowed.

MUN­GAN­TI­WAR has or­dered the en­quiry through a com­mit­tee to find whether guide­lines/ pro­ce­dures given in the Stan­dard Op­er­at­ing Pro­ce­dures (SOP) of the Na­tional Tiger Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity (NTCA) were fol­lowed in the killing. Mem­bers of the com­mit­tee in­clude S H Patil, PCCF-Chair­man; Bi­lal Habib, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Wildlife In­sti­tute of In­dia; Anish And­he­ria, pres­i­dent, Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Trust and Nitin Kakod­kar, APPCF.

MoEF forms com­mit­tee too

The Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment, For­est and Cli­mate Change un­der which the NTCA func­tions, has also in­sti­tuted a com­mit­tee to in­quire into the death of T1. It con­sti­tutes OP Kaler, Addl Prin­ci­pal Chief Con­ser­va­tor of For­est (retd); Jose Louies, Deputy Di­rec­tor and Chief Wildlife Con­trol Divi­sion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Wildlife Trust of In­dia and He­mant Kamdi, AIG (NTCA) Nagpur.

While the MoEF com­mit­tee will have to sub­mit its re­port by November 26, the state-ap­pointed com­mit­tee will have to sub­mit its re­port by November 22.

‘Gun may be switched’

Ti­gress T1, or Avni, was killed last Fri­day at around 11.30 pm-12 am by As­ghar, son of con­tro­ver­sial hunter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, in pres­ence of a for­est depart­ment team in Pand­harkawda. While there was no vet­eri­nar­ian present when the in­ci­dent hap­pened, the team has been claim­ing that at­tempts were made to tran­quilise the ti­gress, but as she charged to­ward them, she had to be shot in self-de­fence. Wildlife lovers and ac­tivists have raised ques­tions about why the gun has not been sub­mit­ted yet.

Wildlife lover and ac­tivist Dr Sarita Subra­ma­nian from NGO Earth Bri­gade Foun­da­tion said, “The Prin­ci­pal Chief Con­ser­va­tor of For­est (PCCF) shouldn’t have al­lowed As­ghar to leave Pand­harkawda with­out en­sur­ing that he de­posited the ri­fle used in the killing of T1, as it is a valu­able piece of ev­i­dence. We have al­ways been sus­pi­cious of the PCCF for let­ting the Nawab get away with sab­o­tage, de­spite com­plaints from his ju­nior of­fi­cers. Won’t be sur­prised if the Nawab and As­ghar switch the gun used to kill the ti­gress.”

Sources from the for­est depart­ment told mid-day that the gun with which the ti­gress was shot has yet not been sub­mit­ted to the Bal­lis­tic Divi­sion of the Direc­torate of Foren­sic Sci­ence and Lab­o­ra­to­ries for bal­lis­tic ex­am­i­na­tion.

‘Asked to de­posit gun’

A se­nior for­est depart­ment official said, “The gun with which the ti­gress was shot be­longs to the shooter and we have told him to de­posit the weapon with the Bal­lis­tic Divi­sion for foren­sic and bal­lis­tic ex­am­i­na­tion.”

Every firearm has a unique print sim­i­lar to that of hu­man fin­ger­prints, which it leaves on the bul­lets and car­tridges. In foren­sic tests, th­ese marks are com­pared with a bul­let to find whether it was fired from the same weapon.

The bal­lis­tic divi­sion ex­am­ines stan­dard and coun­try-made firearms,

A SE­NIOR FOR­EST DEPT. OFFICIAL

The gun with which the ti­gress was shot be­longs to the shooter and we have told him to de­posit the weapon with the Bal­lis­tic Divi­sion for foren­sic and bal­lis­tic ex­am­i­na­tion

lethal weapons like re­volvers, pis­tols, as­sault ri­fles, car­bines and am­mu­ni­tion.

‘Self- de­fence not of­fence’

When con­tacted, Nawab Shafat Ali Khan re­fused to di­rectly comment on why the weapon has not been sub­mit­ted, but said, “What­ever pro­ce­dures have to be fol­lowed, we will co­op­er­ate with. As far as killing a con­firmed man-eater in self-de­fence is con­cerned, any per­son walk­ing on the road can kill a man-eater with his li­cenced weapon, stick, or even an axe in self-de­fence and still not be on the wrong side of the law. As Sec 11 (2) of Wildlife Pro­tec­tion Act 1972 clar­i­fies, ‘Killing of any an­i­mal in de­fence of one­self or any other per­son is not an of­fence’.

FILE PIC

T1 was shot dead in Ya­vat­mal last Fri­day.

Con­tro­ver­sial hunter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan, whose son As­ghar, shot the ti­gress, did not comment di­rectly on why the weapon was not de­posited.

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