'Right-Wing Groups Behind It': Muslim Workers To Lose Jobs in MP's Maihar Temple

Following an order passed by the BJP government, Muslim employees of Maihar temple will be removed from their posts.

4 min read
Hindi Female

Abid Khan joined the temple trust at Maa Sharda Temple in Maihar of Madhya Pradesh's Satna district in 1993. Now 54, Abid tells The Quint that there hasn't been a single complaint against him in the 30 years of his service as a clerk, assisting in the legal cases filed by or against the trust.

"I was the only Muslim to be recruited out of the 146 people who were hired for different posts in 1993. Since then, no one has raised a red flag against me."
Abid Khan

Ayyub Khan, 52, is another Muslim employee who joined as a watchman in 1990 – and rose up to be part of the water management team of the Maihar temple.

Following an order passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Madhya Pradesh government, directing the Satna district collector to remove Muslim employees from the famous temple, both Abid and Ayyub Khan stand to lose their jobs.

The order – signed by Pushpa Kulshreshtha, the deputy secretary of the Spiritual Department of Madhya Pradesh – drew massive flak on social media after a snippet of it went viral on Tuesday, 18 April.

The letter asked the Satna district collector, who is also the president of the temple trust, to take action as per the direction of Usha Thakur, he Spiritual Department Minister, and submit its action-taken report within three days. The order directed to remove meat shops from Maihar, terming it "a holy city."


'Right-Wing Causing Trouble'

Abid, who has a law degree, blames the right-wing groups for the discriminatory order.

"I have a law degree... I have done my Masters as well. I have been assisting the temple's legal team as a clerk, and my job mostly requires me moving the files. I am not part of the group that carries out the puja in the temple, but still some people are trying to malign the atmosphere. The workers of the temple trust also have very friendly relationships with each other, but the right-wing groups are causing these troubles."

Abid has a daughter and a son – both of whom are still in school. He earns around Rs 40,000 from the trust. Now, he fears that he will lose his income to support his children.

Ayyub, who only studied up to Class 5, has three children – one boy and two girls.

"I am 52 years old now. I got the job of a watchman in 1990. I have been working in the temple for the last 33 years. If they push me out now, where will I go? It's difficult to get a job at the age of 25-26 today. How will I, a 52-year-old guy, get a job?" Ayyub asked.

Echoing Abid's sentiments, Ayyub said there is an intimate and friendly relationship among all employees in the temple – and "there has never been a tense situation in all these years."

"Till date, we have never had a fight. Our work demands full focus. We are always busy trying to ensure that lakhs of devotees who come here do not face any inconvenience. Even though we are supposed to work for eight hours, during festivals, we all work for up to 14-16 hours. If I lose my job today, everything will be ruined."
Ayyub Khan

Sources told The Quint that the temple trust is not pleased with the order and would soon convene a meeting to decide on the next steps.


'Crusade Against Muslim Employees'

Speaking to The Quint, another member of the temple trust who joined at the same time as Abid said that the employees of the trust are not happy with the order. He alleged that "it's a crusade against Muslim employees by members of the right-wing groups."

"It all started with a right-wing group leader, named Mahesh Tiwari, getting into a scuffle with a Muslim man in 2020. Mahesh and the right-wing groups had been at cross with the Muslim community in the past as well. However, in 2020, when he and members of Muslim community got into a fight, the demand to remove Muslim workers from the trust came into the limelight. Since then, the situation has been a little tense."

The trust member, reiterating the friendly relations among all trust employees, said, "We all do our jobs mostly. We don't have the time to get into a scuffle. It's a collective effort to ensure a peaceful and happy visit for all the devotees – and that's what we all are focused on, rather than pointing fingers on someone because of their religion."


Mahesh Tiwari is a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and works as the vibhag sanyojak (department coordinator) in the Maihar area. He was the district coordinator of the Bajrang Dal in 2021. 

In July 2021, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal wrote to BJP minister Usha Thakur, citing violation of privacy of the temple by Muslim employees and demanded to remove them immediately.

When The Quint reached out to Mahesh Tiwari, he confirmed that the VHP and the Bajrang Dal are at the core of the demand to remove Muslim employees form the trust.

"We have been demanding the removal of non-Hindu employees of the Maa Sharda Temple trust since 10 years. It's a sacred place for Hindus, and the bylaws of the temple trust clearly say that any non-believer could not be a part of the temple trust. Despite this, both Abid and Ayyub continue to work there."
Mahesh Tiwari

Despite multiple attempts by The Quint, both the district collector and sub-divisional magistrate of Satna couldn't be reached for a response. The article will be updated with their response as and when we receive it.

(With inputs from Satna's Amit Singh.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Temple   Madhya Pradesh 

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