‘Akbar-Sita’ lions row: Tripura govt suspends top official after HC verdict | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘Akbar-Sita’ lions row: Tripura govt suspends top official after high court verdict

Feb 26, 2024 12:43 PM IST

The suspension of Prabin Lal Agrawal followed a complaint from the VHP to the Calcutta high court, alleging that the names hurt religious sentiments.

The Tripura government has suspended the state's principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife and ecotourism) Prabin Lal Agrawal amid a controversy surrounding the naming of a zoo lion and lioness as Akbar and Sita, respectively, The Times of India reported.

The five-year-old Asiatic lioness was brought to the Siliguri zoo from Tripura’s Sepahijala Zoological Park. (Representative Photo)
The five-year-old Asiatic lioness was brought to the Siliguri zoo from Tripura’s Sepahijala Zoological Park. (Representative Photo)

The suspension followed a complaint from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to the Calcutta high court, alleging that the names hurt religious sentiments.

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The animals arrived at the North Bengal Wild Animals Park in Siliguri, North Bengal from Sepahijala Zoo on February 12.

The animals were named by the Sepahijala Zoological Park in Tripura and they were brought to Siliguri as a part of an animal exchange programme, authorities claim. The authorities at the North Bengal Wild Animals Park were considering renaming the animals.

Read Here: Why call lions Akbar, Sita? Court questions choice of big cat names

Akbar was a prominent Muslim ruler of the Mughal Empire in India, whereas Sita, as per the Hindu epic Ramayana, is recognised as the consort of Lord Rama, a significant avatar of the deity Vishnu.

The VHP lodged a petition with the circuit bench, urging for a change in the names as they have offended the religious sentiments of certain individuals.

In a verbal observation, the Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench of the Calcutta HC expressed that the decision to name a lioness and lion "Sita" and "Akbar" should have been avoided to prevent controversy. Questioning if a lion could be named after figures like Swami Vivekananda or Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the bench recommended that the West Bengal Zoo Authority reconsider and rename the two animals prudently.

Justice Bhattacharyya pondered whether it was appropriate to name animals after deities, mythological figures, freedom fighters, or Nobel laureates, emphasising that such controversies should have been avoided.

He said, “Who has given this name causing controversy? I was wondering whether any animal can be named after a God, a mythological hero, freedom fighter, or Nobel laureate. Can we name a lion after Swami Vivekananda or Ramkrishna? We are not considering the naming of a pet dog. Why should you draw controversy by naming a lion and a lioness Akbar and Sita?”

Justice Bhattacharya expressed his disapproval of the names chosen for both animals.

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