Even a week they were booked under the Wildlife Protection Act for allegedly poaching and killing a black buck near a forest in Washim district of eastern Maharashtra, eight alleged offenders – including the nephew of a Maharashtra minister – have not been arrested as yet.

The eight offenders are still at large, despite the orders for their arrest issued by the Chief Warden and Principal Conservator of Forests SWH Naqvi.

Having taken serious cognizance of the incident, Naqui had on Tuesday last ordered the arrest and investigation into the circumstances leading to the release of six alleged offenders after they were caught poaching and killing a black buck on the night of July 16th.

Queried as to why the eight offenders have not been arrested as yet, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), Yavatmal circle, DK Tyagi told “The Pioneer” over the telephone on Monday: “Two of our teams had gone to the villages where the offenders live. But, they could not trace the offenders. Our search is on for them. The moment we find them, we will arrest them”.

Though he revealed that the offences have been booked under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, he did not confirm or deny that Anil Naik, nephew of Maharashtra Minister for Food and Drugs Manohar Naik, is one of the offenders.

However, informed sources in the State Forest department identified the eight persons against whom the local forest officials have registered an offence in their Preliminary Offence Register (POR) for allegedly killing a blackbuck as: Anil Madhukar Rathod-Naik (the minister's nephew), Avinash Shankar Rathod, Bhimrao Rajesingh Chavan, Shankar Kisan Rathod, Devisingh Dayaram Rathod, Sanket Suhas Pawar, Kishor Haralal Chavan and Shankar Sanjay Rathod.

President of the Nagpur-based Satpuda Foundation and member of National Board of Wildlife, Kishor Rithe – who has been crusading for the arrest of eight offenders – dismissed the senior forest officer's claim that the eight offenders were not traceable as “unbelievable”. “How can they not trace the offenders? If the forest officials have not arrested anybody so far, it is because there is a lot of political pressure on them”.

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