Of all the saplings planted across Kerala today (June 5) to mark the World Environment Day, the one on the premises of a temple in Kerala's Malappuram district stands out because of its message of communal amity.
The sapling of Sapodilla (sapota) was planted by Indian Union Muslim League leader Sayyid Munavvar Ali Shihab Thangal and the temple priest on the premises of Kunnummal Sree Thripuranthaka Temple, Malappuram, on Friday. They also named the tree 'Maitri', meaning amity.
"Let this sapling grow up and give us shade forever as a symbol of love for nature as well as tolerance," Thangal wrote on Facebook, along with a picture of the event.
The simple event has assumed much significance in the backdrop of the vilification campaign against Malappuram district on social media following the death of a pregnant wild elephant.
Former Union minister and BJP leader Mankeka Gandhi triggered the hate campaign against the Muslim-majority district calling it 'the most violent district' while giving out a statement against the killing of the elephant.
Though first it was reported that the elephant was fed a cracker-filled pineapple by the local people in Malappuram, later it emerged that the animal died not in Malappuram but in neighbouring Palakkad district.
It also turned out that the elephant accidentally ate the fruit that was allegedly kept as a bait for wild boars straying into human settlements.
Kerala Police on Friday arrested a tenant farmer for the death of the elephant.
"Malappuram has always had a strong tradition of religious amity and coexistence. So when a large-scale hate campaign goes on at the national-level, we have to counter it with such humane gestures," Thangal told Onmanorama.
The idea to plant a sapling on the temple compound was suggested by the Muslim Youth League as a step to showcase to the world the land's tradition of religious coexistence.
Temple priest Manikandan Empranthiri said he was very happy to be a part of such an event. "We have never had to face any problem from other communities. We have always lived here amicably," he said.