Engaging in a heated war of words with party colleague and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar challenged the Centre to set up an international panel to probe lapses, if any, into the killing of the tigress Avni.“The honourable Union Minister could have just spent 50 paise on making a direct call to me to understand the situation. Instead, she chose to make a statement on social media based on half-truths and facts. This has hurt the morale of my staff, who are risking lives to protect the big cats in Maharashtra,” he said. The Women and Child Development Minister had lashed out at the Maharashtra government for the “ghastly murder” of Avni. Ms. Gandhi had further called the killing of T1 as a “straight case of crime.”Clarifying that he did not directly order the killing of the tigress by sharpshooters, Mr. Mungantiwar said the same father-son shooter duo — Asgar Ali and Shafat Ali Khan — had killed a man-eating tiger in Pilibhit in 2009. The Pilibhit MP and now Minister had not raised any objection then. “Moreover, the Forest Department went on to appreciate the efforts of Khan in the killing. Why did Ms. Gandhi not ban the killing then or speak out against it?” he said. The same Khan shooter is employed by nine other States for killing man-eating animals. Then why single out Maharashtra when the killing was done in self-defence and under Court-monitored guidelines?” he said.The State Forest Minister also hit out at Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who had tweeted a quote from Mahatma Gandhi following the killing: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”Mr. Mungantiwar said that only if the Congress chief understood the Mahatma’s sentiments, would the killing of cows stop in Congress-ruled States. He added, “I hope Rahulji is aware of these sentiments of the quote.”In his defence, Mr. Mungantiwar said all efforts were made to tranquillise the animal for over two months. “She was only shot when she attacked our teams. All procedures were followed as per the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). This was not an order given on mobile phone and neither was the sharpshooter employed while he was on a jaunt in jungle. This killing was planned months in advance, legal permits given to the father-son duo, and all procedures followed.”Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government would write to Ms. Gandhi to clarify the process followed in the killing of the tigress.