December 06, 2018:
On Monday, the final report by a two-member National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) committee completely contradicts Hyderabad-based sharpshooter Asghar Ali Khan’s theory of self-defence in the gunning down of Pandharkawda tigress T1 (Avni) on Nov 2 at Borati.
The two-member committee comprising retired additional Principal Chief conservator of forests O P Kaler & NGO Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) member Jose Louies was constituted on Nov 8.
The mandate of the panel was to inquire into the final operation to eliminate T1. The committee submitted its report on Nov 27.
The report exposes Asghar’s glaring lapses and violation of Section 3(1) of the Arms Act, 1958; the Indian Veterinary Council Act, 1984; the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and NTCA Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
The final report (a copy is with TOI) was also submitted to chief secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain, and PCCF (wildlife) AK Misra on Monday (Dec 3) evening.
Misra said, “I don’t understand why NTCA sent the report to me. Till Monday evening I had not received the report. Since then I’m out on official tour.”
However, NTCA member-secretary Anup Kumar Nayak told TOI, “We’ve submitted the findings without any dilution, and sought a response from the state government and PCCF (wildlife). After their reply, the report will be made public. There are serious lapses and violation of NTCA SOPs, Arms Act & Wildlife Act in the T1 killing.”
When Misra was asked whether he would act against the shooter in case of violations, he quipped, “Any action will be taken as per state govt. directions.”
Misra had invited shooter Shafath Ali Khan to tranquillise or shoot T1 on the directions of forest and finance minister Sudhir Munantiwar.
The report notes that forester Mukhbir Sheikh was authorised only to spot and identify the tigress, and not dart it. “Shockingly, he used the dart in which drugs had been stored for over 56 hours, and there was remote chance of immobilization. The medicine cannot be used beyond 24 hrs. in the dart. The act was against the instructions of wildlife vet Dr B M Kadu. The scheduled drugs were also handled by unauthorized persons,” it states.
Maharashtra State Veterinary Council (MSVC) member Dr Ajay Poharkar said, “We will register an FIR against all violations of the law by unauthorized use of scheduled drugs. We are awaiting a copy of the report.”
The findings also state that at the time of the shot being fired at T1 it was moving away from the vehicle, on its natural path away from the road. After darting T1, the vehicle moved towards her, and she showed natural aggression. The objective of darting is in question as the gunshot was fired within a few seconds to kill the tigress, without giving any time for the medicine to take effect.
“After firing the dart the vehicle moved further towards the tiger instead of stopping or backing off from the darted animal. The intention of darting the animal is in question, as there was no induction period as clearly required by NTCA SOP,” says the report.
It also states T1 was shot by an inexperienced person like Asghar, in haste, and using an unauthorized weapon.
The shooter doesn’t remember the make and specifications of the gun he used, and despite repeated requests to submit the gun, there are no efforts to submit the gun and empty shell.
It says, “This clearly indicates an attempt to hide crucial facts and evidence by Asghar.”