To Rahul Gandhi’s swipe over tigress Avni killing, Centre’s stinging comeback

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"He is a criminal known for supplying guns to anti-nationals and for a suspected case of murder in Hyderabad", Maneka Gandhi, a government minister and known animal rights activist, said on Twitter.

A tigress who is believed to have killed more than a dozen people in the last two years has been shot dead in India. While wildlife enthusiasts and experts cried foul over the incident, the Maharashtra Forest Department defended it saying the tigress was killed in "self-defence'".

'It is nothing but a straight case of crime.

Reacting to the killing of Avni, Ms Gandhi earlier, in a series of tweets, had lashed out at the Maharashtra government for ordering to kill the tigress despite opposition from several stakeholders. "Legally, criminally as well as politically", she said.

The count was at 2,226 in 2015, according to India's National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Khan called on Gandhi to produce evidence to back her claims. Asghar Ali Khan said, "Tiger is our national animal, so I support the people who support the cause not to kill a tiger".

Her carcass has been shifted to Nagpur for an autopsy but her cubs were missing.

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Mungantiwar criticised his party colleague's role as minister for women and child development. "The tigress had killed 13 people". On the plea by Wildlife activist Dr Jerryl Banait and Earth Brigade Foundation, the Nagpur bench of the high court had issued a notice to the Forest Department seeking its stand by October 19. However, the deaths that the Maharashtra Forest Department attributed to Avni were results of humans entering tiger territory, possibly to allow cattle to graze in the forest reserve.

Asghar Ali Khan told the India Today news outlet that just as his "tranquilizer dart hit her, she charged at our open vehicle and to save life I had to shoot her".

Known as T1 but nicknamed Avni, the tigress has dragged away several villagers by the neck and with her cubs, devoured large parts of them, The New York Times reported.

"Yet, the Forest Department will ensure their upkeep", he said.

She also came down heavily on Mungantiwar for giving order to private marksman Shafat Ali Khan's son to carry out the hunting operation."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", she said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, seizing the opportunity arising out of war of words between the two BJP ministers, the Shiv Sena took a dig at the Fadnavis government over the tigress's killing.

The elusive tigress on the run for over a month was spotted with the help of night vision thermal drones last night in Gorakhpur village of Ramnagar sub-division after an intense combing operation, Terai Western Forest Circle Conservator Parag Dhakate had said.

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