At first sight, he is no different from any other saffron-clad Hindu volunteer offering selfless service at Gorakhnath temple, but this 30-year-old youth shares a special bond with the temple’s head priest and Uttar Pradesh’s new chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Man Mohammad is a Muslim youth who has been serving at the temple’s ‘gaushala’ (cow shelter) since the age of 10.
Hailing from an extremely poor family, he was initiated into the service by his father Inayatullah who himself was a volunteer when mahant Digvijay Nath and mahant Avaidyanath were the priests of the iconic temple.
Man is single. Like other volunteers, he is paid a nominal amount and given food for his services.
Mahant Digvijay Nath, an MP on Hindu Mahasabha ticket, was succeeded as temple chief by mahant Avaidyanath, a three-time MLA and an MP. Mahant Avaidyanath passed on the baton to Yogi Adityanath in 1998, 16 years before he died in 2014.
Man offers namaz and follows Islamic practices. But that doesn’t come in the way of sharing cordial relations with his Hindu colleagues who love him for his dedication.
“I have spent my childhood at the temple and it is like my home. I will continue working here for the rest of my life as Yogiji has given a lot of respect and love to me,” Man told HT.
“Yogiji likes my dedication towards the service of cows, including Nandini, his favourite one. Yogiji doesn’t take his breakfast till he himself feeds the cows,” he added.
Man’s father now lives at his home in Maharajganj, about 40 km away. He is suffering from age-related problems and the cost of his treatment is being borne by Yogi Adityanath.
“Though he (Yogi) has the image of a Hindutva hardliner but when it comes to personal bonding, he stands for everyone, irrespective of religious identity,” Man said.
“As the chief minister, he will work for all and will ensure development of every community,” he added.
Like every year, Man received gifts and new clothes on the occasion of Holi.
There are more than 500 cows at the temple’s ‘gaushala’.