Shooter Shafat Ali Khan who killed tigress Avni says acted on state order

Hyderabad: Under attack from animal rights activists for killing man-eating tigress Avni in Maharashtra, Hyderabadi sharpshooter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan on Tuesday said his team had acted on the orders of the Maharashtra government.

Shafat Ali Khan, whose son Asghar Ali Khan killed the tigress, defended their action saying the bullet was fired in self-defence.

Avni, identified as T1 and held responsible for killing at least 13 humans, was shot dead in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district on Saturday.

Shafat lashed out at the activists, including Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, for making personal and baseless allegations against them.

He threatened to sue those indulging in mudslinging. “We have legal recourse to take. We will not keep quiet,” he told reporters here.

He said he was not scared of such allegations, and would continue to stand by those whose lives were threatened by elephants and tigers venturing out of forests.

“Whenever governments or poor Indians call me, I will go to help them. The Constitution of India has given the Right to Life to all citizens. If a tiger or an elephant comes out of a jungle and kills people, I will stand by those people,” he said.

“Why those making allegations now did not have the guts to go there. Why no police officer or military general was called. Was there nobody else in the whole country,” he asked.

Shafat said he had been called by the Jharkhand government to kill an elephant that was held responsible for the death of 15 people. Last year, he was called by the Maharashtra government to kill a leopard that had mauled seven children to death.

He recalled that he was called to kill a tigress in Pilibhit, the Lok Sabha constituency of Maneka Gandhi, in 2009. “For four months, teams that had come from all over India tried but nothing happened. Finally, I was called and after an operation that lasted 35 days and nights, I killed her. Nobody opened their mouths then.”

“Now after spending 40 days in the (Yavatmal) jungle and facing all difficulties, we completed this operation and they are making all sorts of allegations,” he said.

On Maneka Gandhi’s allegation that Asghar Ali had appeared on the scene illegally to murder the tigress, Shafat said that his son was part of a five-member team authorised by the Chief Conservator of Forest(CCF), Yavatmal.

Asghar said that their intention was not to kill the animal and that’s why they patrolled for 24 hours, taking risks on several occasions.

“We tried to move closer to the tigress. It used to be in thick bushes and we were not getting a clear view, which was required for tranquilising it,” he said.