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Tripura’s top forest officer suspended for naming lion pair as Akbar and Sita after VHP’s complaint: Details

The Calcutta High Court had expressed displeasure at the naming of the big cats and had asked the authorities to change the names.

The Tripura government suspended Prabin Lal Agrawal, the state’s principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife and ecotourism), on Saturday (24th February) following a controversy over the naming of a zoo couple of lion and lioness as Akbar and Sita, respectively. The suspension came after the VHP filed a suit with the Calcutta High Court, stating that the names hurt the religious sentiments, of the community. 

According to the reports, on 12th February, the lion and lioness were transported to North Bengal Wild Animals Park in Siliguri from Tripura’s Sepahijala Zoo as part of an animal exchange initiative.

Agrawal, a 1994 batch IFS officer, was then Tripura’s top wildlife warden. When he sent the lion couple to Siliguri, he wrote their names as Akbar and Sita in the dispatch registry.

This provoked a public outcry, prompting the VHP’s Bengal unit to file a PIL at the Calcutta High Court’s Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench on 21st February. The High Court judges ruled that the lion pair’s names be changed.

However, the Bengal Forest Department explained that the names were provided by Tripura, and any changes were the responsibility of the Tripura Zoo officials. VHP then filed a writ suit before HC, arguing that the names were illogical and involved blasphemy.

The Calcutta High Court had expressed displeasure at the naming of the big cats and had asked the authorities to change the names.

The court asserted, “Mr Counsel, will you name your own pet after some Hindu God or Muslim Prophet? I think, if any one of us had been the authority, none of us would have named them Akbar and Sita. Can anyone of us think of naming an animal after Rabindranath Tagore? Sita is worshipped by a larger section of this country. I also oppose naming the lion after Akbar. He was an efficient, successful and secular Mughal Emperor.”

“You could have named it Bijli or something like that. But why give such names of Akbar and Sita,” the Court further questioned.

In response, the Tripura government sought clarification from Agrawal, who denied referring to the lion couple as Sita and Akbar. An investigation discovered that the names were submitted by Tripura wildlife officials during the animal exchange programme, which resulted in Agrawal being suspended.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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