Hullabaloo over Hisbullah' s Rata Indi


Planting of the date palm along the median strip of the main roads within the Kattankudy Urban Council has taken a lot of flak and it is also viewed by some elements as Arabanisation.When the former Governor of the Eastern Province M. L. A. M. Hisbullah appeared before the Parliamentary Select Committee, member Ashu Marasinghe asked him among other things why he had planted the date palm along the median strip of the main road. Hisbullah replied that he really wanted to plant the foxtail palm, but an expert had advised him not to do so as this plant wouldn't survive in the intense heat there. Therefore, he had decided to plant the date palm, as this plant would withstand high heat. When Marasinghe suggested that he could have considered planting palmyra palm Hisbullah agreed with him.In my view Hisbullah should have admitted that the decision of planting the date palm was purely based on the religious sentiments of the people living there. Obviously, it was the reason. On the other hand the suggestion by Marasinghe that he could have considered planting the palmyra palm instead sounded absurd, because of the danger it posed for the pedestrians and the roads.As I said earlier, the obvious reason for planting the date palm in a predominantly Muslim area was religious. The date palm, mentioned more than any other fruit bearing plant in the Qur'an, is a symbol often associated with Islam and Muslims. Muslims breakfast during the month of Ramadan eating dates. In the premises of many mosques in Sri Lanka the date palm is planted. In addition to its religious significance, it is an edible palm that withstands drought and is much suitable to be planted on a median strip and sidewalk of roads.The widespread criticism levelled against the date palm planted in Kattankudy is partially political and partially ignorance. If we take Bodhi tree (peepul), it is much revered by Buddhists, because Buddha attained his enlightenment meditating under this tree. Wherever Buddhists live this tree is seen in plenty, because it has been long associated with Buddhists and their culture. Similarly, the temple tree is also planted in most Buddhist temples and in places Buddhists live as majority, as this temple flower is offered to Buddha on days of religious significance.In the same vein, if we visit a Hindu temple we won't fail to see banyan trees. A banyan tree is of much religious significance to Hindus. It is a symbol of life and fertility in Hindu culture and it also symbolizes Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma. There are also many flowers like lotus, tulsi, jasmin and rosemallow which are of religious significance to Hindus. You won't find any Hindu neighbourhood without these trees and flowering plants. For instance in Arayampathy, the town adjoining Kattankudy, they have planted these plants of religious significance to Hindus, and erected statues of Hindu gods along the median strip of their main road and this has never been an issue.Similarly, if we visit a Christian neighbourhood we see lots of Christmas trees growing there. It is not an issue here either. This tree has been of much religious importance to Christians and there’s no Christmas without Christmas trees.Therefore, the date palm along the median strip of roads in Kattankudy is not an issue at all. We must think positively. It reduces the noise pollution created by the traffic; it also helps to clear the air by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen; it gives fruit; it gives beauty and it is safe. Above all it gives a look of multiculturalism to proud Sri Lanka!


Kalmunai – 05

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