Now in Kolkata: MBA graduate called ‘terrorist,’ suspended from job allegedly after growing beard

By Zaidul Haque,,

Kolkata: Close on the heels of highly reported case of an MBA graduate being denied job on religious ground in Mumbai, now another case has come to light, this time from Kolkata, of an MBA graduate and general manager of a multi-crore company from Kolkata being suspended allegedly for growing a beard.

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Muhammad Ali Ismail (38), who was working as general manager for last three years at the Adhunik Group of Company, was earlier clean shaven, but grew beard after performing Hajj. He says he was even called at “terrorist”. He had joined the company as country manager of Africa and Overseas, but was later promoted and made general manager.

Ismail told that few months back Managing Director of Adhunik Group Manoj Agarwal met him to discuss the labour issues at Odisha Mining Unit. He says that as Agarwal saw him in beard, he mocked his beard. “Why have you grown beard, you look like a terrorist. There is no place for you in my company,” Agarwal allegedly told him.

Ismail says that he protested saying that he performed the pilgrimage and hence, on religious ground, he has grown beard now as the religion demands, adding that this will obviously not affect his performance in the company.

He says that he also protested at being called a “terrorist,” but the MD did not pay any heed and shut the door of his office, ordering others to never let him back in his office again.

He says that he immediately went to the nearby Ballygunj Police Station in Kolkata to file a complaint against the company and it’s MD for ‘discriminatory’ policies, but the cops have not taken any action so far. Unlike Zeeshan Ali Khan from Mumbai, who was offered a job by the Adani Group, Ismail is crying for justice. met with Muhammad Ali Ismail at his residence to know more about him and what he is going through.

Muhammad Ali Ismail (38) has alleged discrimination for sporting beard.

Ismail was born at the Picnic Garden area of Kolkata. He still lives there in a flat with his father, a retired police worker of Calcutta Police, mother, wife and two children – six years old son and five years old.

A Commerce graduates from Calcutta University, he later did MBA from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) in 2003. In 2006 Ismail was runner up of the `Business Bajigar’ Award, organised by Zee TV and was felicitated by then Union Minister Kamalnath.

He was offered a job at the by Adhunik Group’s Director Nirmal Kumar Agarwal, during campus placement at NMIMS, under its subsidiary company Orissa Manganese & Minerals Pvt. Ltd in March, 2008 for their overseas work as a Country Manager to look after their venture in Madagascar.

He says that under him, the out-shore business of the company expanded further to five countries in Africa as well as Brazil in South America. He was the key-person over-seeing mine acquisition and exploration in Africa, 8 Uranium mines acquisition of Tanzania, iron ore and lead of Mozambique, diamond and copper mine in Congo and 23 iron ore and gold mine of Brazil.

Ismail says that he was later relocated and promoted to look after their Indian mining operation situated under their subsidiary company named Orissa Manganese and Minerals Pvt. Ltd. as their unit head. He was designated as ‘Resident Executive Officer’ on an annual CTC of 25 Lakhs per annum effective from January 1, 2012. He says that since he over took, out of six mines that were non-functioning are operational now.

File photo of Muhammad Ali Ismail

Ismail has alleged that since July, 2014 the company stopped paying him full salary and on enquiring he was told that hence forth 60 % of the salary will be issued by account transfer while the remaining 40% shall be paid as cash in hand.

Most of the employees stationed at the remote location of Orissa, Sundargarh was even deprived of day to day needs, food, water, sanitation, electricity and domestic help because of the lack and or paucity of basic funds, he has further alleged.

He says that due to extreme conditions there, several employees left the job and he too came back to Kolkata. He said that the company was forcing him to go back to the site, but he made it clear that he will go back only after all his dues are cleared and the wages of other employees are also issued.

Ismail at a function organised by Zee Group for `Business Bajigar’ Award in 2006.

He said that the management had earlier agreed and asked him to stay in Kolkata and look after the overseas work. He was asked to report to Nirmal Kumar Agarwal.

Ismail says that on May 16, 2015 he visited the corporate office and met with the director Nirmal Kumar Agarwal, who instructed the accounts department to settle his dues in full and final immediately.

He says that on May 18, he visited the corporate office again on 12.0 pm and met the person in-charge of the accounts department who informed him that although Nirmal Kumar Agarwal has already cleared his file, it waiting the approval of Manoj Kumar Agarwal, another director.
He says that he went to meet Manoj Kumar Agarwal and requested him to clear the dues; but he got furious at his ‘changed appearance’ and started abusing him. “Your appearance has completely changed, you are sporting beard like a terrorist,” Manoj Agarwal allegedly told him.

Ismail says that he was shocked to hear this, but explained to him that he went on pilgrimage and has hence now grown beard as his “religion mandates”. He says that the Manoj Agarwal asked the security personnel and other staff to push me put of the office and never let him in.

He says that he felt humiliated and went straight to the Ballygunge police station to register a complaint. He says that neither has he resigned nor the company has issued him any termination letter so far. He alleged that his outstanding dues are from the month of September, 2014 till date, besides 50% salary of July as well as other statutory payments such as gratuity and 3 months notice pay as per the company’s appointment letter.

Ismail has now written letters to the Chief Minister of West Bengal, State Minority Commission, Minister of Minority Affairs and Madrassa Education department of West Bengal, Deputy Commissioner of Police, National Human Rights Commission of India.

TCN tried to contact the MD of Adhunik group Manoj Agarwal several times on his Mobile phone, but he did not respond. When called at the company’s corporate office at Sarat Basu Road, Kolkata; the receptionist said that the directors do not want to talk to media on this issue.

Earlier, Mahesh Agarwal, brother of Manoj Agarwal, has been quoted in media as saying, “Whatever Ismail has said is a lie. He had threatened us that he would ransack and vandalise our office. He is a fraud.”

As Ismail went public, and the issue has been reported by a section of media, the company has left the door open, saying the company is ready for a mutual agreement. Ismail told TCN that one person from Adhunik Group has sent him a SMS to settle the outstanding dues and close the issue.

He says that he still considers himself the general manager of the company and says that he will fight for justice.