The committee constituted by the Maharashtra government to probe the killing of man-eater tigress Avni is a "farce", Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said on Saturday, November 10.
In a statement, he demanded that a panel is formed under a retired judge to probe the tigress' killing. The state government has come under fire over the death of the tigress, who was believed to have turned a man-eater and killed 13 people in the last two years in Yavatmal district.
The big cat was shot dead in an operation in a forest in Yavatmal district last Friday. The killing of T1, as the tigress was officially known, led to an outrage among animal lovers and wildlife organizations.
"Those who had given the 'supari' (contract) to kill the tigress have been made members of the (probe) committee. The committee set up is a farce," Thackeray alleged.
Taking a dig at senior ally BJP, Thackeray said if Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis backed state Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar saying he could not be held responsible for the killing, why did Prime Minister Narendra Modi take credit for the surgical strike, when he had not himself conducted it.
However, state Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said if Thackeray feels the committee is a "farce", then the state government is willing to form another panel under the Sena chief's leadership if he so desires.
"Uddhavji is an important figure in the alliance between the BJP and the Sena. If he does not want to head a committee under him, he should realise I have already asked the chief minister to appoint a committee under retired Supreme Court judges. Lowest level of politics is unnecessarily being played over the issue," he said.
The state government had on Friday, November 9 constituted a four-member committee, comprising wildlife experts and officials, to conduct an "in-depth" probe into the tigress' killing.
It is headed by Principal Chief Conservator of Forest S H Patil. It will include Wildlife Institute of India member Habib Bilal, Wildlife Conservation Trust chairman Anish Andheriya and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Nitin Kakodkar, an official statement from the forest department said earlier.
The committee will probe if established protocols and standard operating practices were followed in the case and submit a report to the government. Union minister Maneka Gandhi had lashed out at the state government over Avni's killing and dubbed it a "ghastly murder". Avni was the mother of two 10-month-old cubs.
The Maharashtra government, however, defended itself calling the incident "sad" but necessary after the tigress attacked forest staff trying to tranquilise it. Opposition NCP dubbed the inquiry as an "eyewash".
Earlier, when asked about the criticism by the opposition, Mungantiwar had said he has written a letter to Maneka Gandhi, asking for an independent probe by Supreme Court judges into the killing of Avni.
"This inquiry (by SC judges) will happen when it has to happen, but the state government has to probe the issue at the earliest," he had said