Hyderabad: Some shed silent tears; some broke down while a few wept openly. There were also signs of relief on their faces. Their ordeal had at last come to an end and they were happy about it. They are all victims of Avini, the tigress which struck terror in several villages of Yawatmal district in Maharashtra four years ago.
On Wednesday the next of kin of those killed by the man-eater and also those affected by it gathered at the Borati village in Ralegaon taluka to observe the fourth death anniversary of Avini. It was the same village where the tigress made her first kill. And incidentally it was the same place where she was shot dead by Asgar Ali, son of Hyderabad’s sharp shooter, Nawab Shafath Ali Khan, on November 2, 2018. Later the father-son duo became the target of a bitter trial and witch-hunting with activists dubbing them ‘trigger happy’ and dragging them to the court – although the operation was carried out on the orders of the Maharashtra government.
About 10,000 people turned up at the programme organised by the locals. Family members of the 13 persons mauled to death by the tigress were there. So were a good number of others who were affected by the terror created by the wild animal in 26 villages. As many as 76 Sarpanches from different villages like Borati, Swarkheda, Loni and Vedashi took part in the programme. The father-son duo, the chief guests, were given a rousing welcome and profusely garlanded by the villagers.
There was a carnival-like ambience in the tiny village. From 2016 to 2018 most of the surrounding hamlets experienced a virtual lockdown with Avni having a free run. All agricultural activities came to a grinding halt as none could dare to come out. People were afraid to even answer the call of nature for fear of the prowling tigress. So this event was an important occasion for the people after the pain and anguish they went through. Programme organisers, Arvind Futane and Ankush Muneshwar, distributed clothes to the affected families and also arranged lunch for all. Fourteen candles were lit as a mark of respect to the deceased.
Most of the affected persons turned emotional and couldn’t speak when given the mike. All they could mumble was a big ‘thank’ to Nawab Shafath Ali Khan and his son, Asgar Ali, for putting the tigress to sleep. “Otherwise we would be still living under fear’, said a villager whose wife, Mangala, was killed by Avni. The husband of Archana, who was killed by the elephant, Gajraj brought to capture the tigress, also expressed his gratitude to the Hyderabad shikaris for ending Avini’s reign of terror.
Nawab Shafath Ali Khan unveiled the plaque containing names of the victims. He urged the government to provide compensation of Rs. 1 crore to the next of kin of those killed and job to a family member. He asked the government to use the funds at the disposal of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) for erecting chain link fencing of core forest areas so that wild animals like tigers and leopards don’t spill over to human landscape. “Nearly 40 percent of tigers in India are outside the protected area”, he said.
In fact, the tiger is only the tip of the iceberg. Wild boars and blue bulls (Nilgai) are a greater threat to agriculture farms. In Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra blue bulls are a bigger menace while in Telangana it is the wild boar which is giving sleepless nights to farmers. He wants wild boars to be translocated to fenced tiger reserves so that predators have enough prey to live off. “This is the only solution to the growing man- animal conflict”, says the sharpshooter.