LAHORE: Allah Rakha, around an eight-decade-old banyan tree, along with other trees on the campus of Government Associates College, Lake Road, was chopped down on Saturday.
According to legend, the banyan tree was named by Maulana Abdul Haq Abbas, the founder of Anjuman Madrasatul Banat, which has managed a number of educational institutions from the pre-Partition era, when he relocated here from India in August 1947 with a busload of students from Jalandhar.He found a small sampling of pilkhan tree (banyan family) badly damaged during looting and burning, which also damaged the nearby building and the furniture lying there, says Anjuman’s president Dr Amin U Khan, also a grandson of Maulana Abbas.
He says Maulana Abbas tried to restore the tree and put a brick fence around it with the help of students praying, if the sampling survived, they would call it Allah Rakha.
The tree not only survived, but also grew to have girths of more than three meters and a crown diameter of around ten meters. It was providing shelter to about 350 house sparrows, which were counted every year by the Good Citizens Society, and shelter to students during the summer. It has eighty years of carbon sequestered in its stem.
The area people allege that the principal of the government-run college quietly decided to sell the tree on a holiday. They say as they learnt about the ‘tree-chopping spree’ they protested and managed to save one branch of Allah Rakha.
They hope that with the help of friends, they will be able to preserve Allah Rakha for a long time.
Anjuman Madrasatul Banat administrator Ilyas Shah says he has also submitted a written complaint with the police because the college authorities cannot change anything, including the landscape, on the campus because the ownership of the premises lies with the Supreme Court.
Civil society has decided to hold a protest demonstration on Monday against the chopping of the historic tree.
Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2023
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