At least 288 people were killed and 800 injured in a horrific train accident in Odisha’s Balasore district on Friday, June 2. According to information available at the time of the filing of this report, around 7 pm on Friday, 10 to 12 coaches of the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express got derailed and fell over on another track. The Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, plying on that line, subsequently collided with the derailed train, derailing three to four of its own coaches. A goods train was also involved in the crash.
Even as images and videos of the mishap started circulating, certain social media users tried to give the accident a communal twist by claiming that a mosque was located near the spot of the accident.
User The Random Indian (@randomsena) tweeted an image of a drone view of the spot with an arrow pointing at a white building, the apparent mosque, and wrote, ‘Just Saying Yesterday Was Friday’. By saying this, the user tried to claim that Muslims were responsible for the tragedy. This particular tweet was part of a thread wherein he tried to establish that the train accident was a planned attack by Muslims. (Archive)
Yesterday Was Friday pic.twitter.com/HWz3zoCnS0
— The Random Indian (@randomsena) June 3, 2023
Other users, including @RajputRanjanaa, @RealVirendraBJP, @abbajabbadabba4, verified user @VIRALKI44722069 and parody account @mdallahwala, tweeted the same image wherein the white building was pointed at and claimed that Muslims were responsible for the accident. (Archives- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
This claim is also viral on Facebook.
Upon a closer examination of the spot from different angles, we found that the white structure seen in the viral image resembles a temple and not a mosque. The following image was used in a Reuters report titled, “Deadly Indian rail crash shifts focus from new trains to safety“. We have circled the structure on the image:
We reached out to journalist Tamal Saha who is currently at the spot of the accident in Bahanaga. He confirmed to Alt News that the structure near the accident was indeed a temple. Upon probing further, we found that the temple was the Bahanaga ISKCON temple. A YouTube video of the temple, uploaded five months ago shows that the structure is white in colour and was under construction (although functional) at that time as well.
On our request, Saha visited the temple and sent us an image of the board outside the temple saying ISKCON Bahanaga.
We also received a video capturing the entrance to the temple.
Below is a comparison among a screengrab of the aforementioned video, the portion of the viral image showing the alleged mosque and the image from the Reuters report. As is evident, all three show the same structure.
Below is another video capturing the road outside the temple.
We also reached out to the authorities of the ISKCON temple in Bahanaga who confirmed to us that the train accident happened on the tracks near the temple. They also confirmed that the structure seen next to the spot of the accident is the ISKCON temple.
Furthermore, after over 12 hours after the mishap, the Railways is looking at the possibility of a signalling error as its prima facie cause, sources told The Indian Express. According to the report, a multi-disciplinary joint-inspection note by supervisors concluded that a green signal was given to the Coromandel Express to pass through the designated main line, and then the signal was taken off. But the train entered the loop line, rammed into a stationary goods train and derailed. Meanwhile, on the down line, the superfast express train from Yashwantpur had arrived and its two coaches derailed.
Hence, it is clear that in the drone-view image of the train accident site in Balasore shared on social media, the white structure partly visible is not a mosque, but an ISKCON temple in Bahnaga. It is baseless and absurd to claim that the proximity of the structure had anything to do with the accident. At the time of the filing of this report, an inquiry is still on to ascertain the exact cause of the mishap.
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