False claims on religious identity of station master linked to Odisha train accident go viral

By: Uzma Afreen
June 6 2023

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False claims on religious identity of station master linked to Odisha train accident go viral


The Verdict False

The Indian Railways administration confirmed that the station master’s name is not Sharif, and no such person works at Bahanaga railway station.

Claim ID f7cad09b

Shortly after the deadly train accident in Odisha’s Balasore district, various misleading communal narratives around the tragedy are circulating on social media. Three trains collided in the east Indian state on June 2, killing atleast 278 people and injuring over 1,000. 

While an investigation has been launched, a preliminary probe revealed that the accident occurred because of an electronic interlocking system error. With initial statements, online users are making unsubstantiated claims of sabotage and some are squarely blaming the station master at Bahanaga - the railway station closest to the accident site. 

A tweet by user Manoj Singh claims that the station master’s name is Mohammed Sharif and that he has been on the run since the accident. Many right-wing users have made similar claims. The name ‘Sharif’ is commonly used by people of the Islamic faith.

In Fact
Through reverse image search, we found one of the images allegedly of the station master was actually of a station master from Borra Ghuala railway station in Andhra Pradesh, not Odisha. It originated from a blog post by photographer Vikas Chander. 

We searched for the name of the station master at Bahanaga railway station and came across reports by local outlets — Kalinga TV and Odisha Bhaskar. They identified the station master as SB Mohanty. According to reports, Mohanty was interrogated by the Railway Safety Commissioner team on June 5, and has joined the probe.

South Eastern Railways Chief Public Relations Officer Aditya Kumar Chaudhary told Logically Facts that no staff member named Sharif is working at the Bahanaga railway station. Chaudhary, in an interview with news agency ANI also said, “Some fake news is being spread regarding the name of the station master.” Chaudhary also debunked the claim that Mohanty was on the run after the accident and clarified that no officials or staff members are on the run. He told ANI: Nothing like that, they are all assisting in the inquiry. This interview was also published by The Times of India on its website.

The Odisha Police, in a tweet dated June 4, also warned those trying to create “communal disharmony” over the train accident. “It has come to notice that some social media handles are mischievously giving communal colour to the tragic train accident at Balasore. This is highly unfortunate,” the official Twitter account of the Odisha Police stated, warning of legal action against unfounded claims.

Logically Facts has also fact checked other communal narratives around the Odisha accident, including one that claimed a mosque was located near the railway accident site. Our investigation found that the white structure seen in the pictures is not a mosque but an ISKCON temple.

The Verdict
The name of the station master on duty at Bahanaga railway station at the time of the accident is SB Mohanty and not Sharif, as claimed in the viral posts. The South Eastern Railways administration has also confirmed to Logically Facts that no one named Sharif worked at the station. Hence, we mark this claim false.

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We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before