Avni’s death haunts Forest Minister
Opposition parties in Maharashtra demand arrest of Sudhir Mungantiwar and investigation by CBI
Opposition parties today demanded the arrest of Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who has been under pressure for allegedly ordering the killing of tigress Avni. The Congress, Shiv Sena and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) demanded his dismissal by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis or, they said, protests would be held across the State.
The parties called the probe committee set-up by the government on Friday “a sham” to protect the Minister. They also demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The Maharashtra government had on Friday formed a high-level committee to probe the controversial killing of the tigress Avni, whose death sparked a national debate with Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi leading the charge against Mr. Mungantiwar. The committee appointed by Maharashtra is headed by the State’s Chief Forest Officer S.H. Patil to probe lapses, if any, into the killing.
Calling for a global march on November 11, the Congress raised “serious questions” over Mr. Mungantiwar’s role in shooting the alleged maneater. “It is highly possible that Mungantiwar could be in nexus with the international poaching mafias. It is clear that our national animal is not safe under Mungantiwar’s rule,” Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam said on Saturday.
The Shiv Sena said the probe set up by the State government is nothing but a “sham and a farce.” “The committee for inquiry is a sham. It is only an arrogant, thick-skinned way by this government to give a clean chit and call the hunt legal. It includes everyone who reports to the Minister and those who possibly invited the hunter,” alleged Yuva Sena leader Aditya Thackeray.
The Shiv Sena said questions raised by concerned citizens and civil society must be answered by the government and Mr. Mungantiwar. “Who took the call to shoot Avni? Were forest officers and others who planned it present at the time of shooting Avni? If yes, why did they go out in an open vehicle, if they were sure that she was apparently a man-eater?” Mr. Thackeray asked.
Mr. Nirupam further alleged serious manipulation in the tenders for setting up a surveillance system in the State’s Tiger Reserves. “Despite the National Tiger Conservative Authority’s (NTCA) rule of having a surveillance system installed in every Tiger Reserve in the country, Sudhir Mungantiwar has conveniently refrained from doing the needful in Maharashtra time and again. All the other States with Tiger Reserves have installed surveillance systems except Maharashtra,” Mr. Nirupam said.
Call for justice: Wildlife activists protesting against the killing of tigress Avni at the Civil Lines in Nagpur on Saturday.