A tree planted by Mahatma Gandhi 82 years ago in Rajpur area of the district is at the centre of a controversy after its branches were lopped by a charitable institute.
The administration of Christian Retreat and Study Centre, a 150-year-old charitable institute said that it had, with the prior permission from the state forest department, cut the branches of the Banyan tree to bring it back to life.
However, locals are protesting against the lopping alleging that there was some other reason behind the move and the institute wanted to get rid of the tree.
"The tree is growing old. Lopping was necessary to keep it alive. Besides, the tree was causing problems in the construction of a building in the institute," said administrative assistant of the centre Sarita Das, who is working in the institute for the past 35 years.
She said that the institute had taken prior permission from the forest department for cutting its branches.
The tree was planted by Mahatma Gandhi on Oct 17, 1929 in the memory of Pandit Keshavadeva Shastri.
"The institute should have conserved the tree, which is a national heritage. Instead they are cutting its branches which would cause wilting of the tree," said B K Saklani, a social activist.
Divisional forest officer of Mussoorie Ram Gopal said the institute was given permission for lopping on the ground that the tree was posing threat to life and property.
He, however, said if a representation by local people is given, the department is ready to look into the matter.