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Fact Check

Photo Of Special Public Prosecutor Viral As 2002 Godhra Train Case Convict

The photograph shows RC Kodekar, who served as the prosecutor counsel in the 2002 Godhra train burning case.

By - Srijit Das | 18 Feb 2024 9:00 AM GMT

A photograph of a special public prosecutor has surfaced on social media with captions misidentifying him as Rafiq Hussain Bhatuk, one of the accused in the 2002 Godhra train coach fire incident.

BOOM found that the person in the photograph is government pleader RC Kodekar, who served as the prosecutor counsel in the 2002 Godhra train burning case and not Bhatuk as claimed in the viral messages. 

Bhatuk, who remained in hiding for 19 years, was arrested by the Gujarat police in 2021. In 2022, the Godhra Sessions Court handed down a life sentence to him for his involvement in the conspiracy of committing murder during the Godhra train burning incident.

The Godhra train burning incident, which happened on February 27, 2002, led to widespread riots throughout Gujarat at that time. On the morning of February 27, a mob set ablaze a coach of the Sabarmati Express near the Godhra railway station, resulting in the deaths of 59 passengers on board. As reported by The Indian Express, around 2,000 karsevaks had boarded the train from Ayodhya to participate in the Purnahuti Maha Yagna organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The yagna was part of the Ram Temple building programme.

The photo is being shared with the caption, "This is Rafiq Hussain Bhathuk, a Muslim leader and owner of two petrol pumps in Godhra. He orchestrated the arrangement of petrol to set the Sabarmati Express on fire. He remained fugitive for 14 years, with Gujarat IB keeping an eye on his relatives. Eventually, he contacted his son in surveillance, and when the police traced his location to Delhi, he willingly came to Godhra. Yesterday, he was sentenced to life imprisonment after confessing the crime in court. Remember when Lalu Yadav, during the UPA-1 era, suggested that the fire in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra happened spontaneously and wasn't deliberately set? All this truth came to light in court, yet mainstream media rarely covered this news".

Click here to view the post.

Abhijit Majumder, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Earshot.in, also amplified the same claim from his verified X handle.

Click here to view the post. 

BOOM also received the same photo on its WhatsApp tipline numbers (7700906588) with a request for verification.


Fact Check 

BOOM first performed a related keyword search and noticed that the same photo was posted by the official X handle (erstwhile Twitter) of news agency ANI on July 2, 2022.

The X post by ANI referred to two individuals, the convict Rafiq Hussain Bhatuk and Special Public Prosecutor RC Kodekar, without specifying who is present in the photograph.

ANI posted the image with the caption, "Criminal Rafiq Hussain Bhatuk, accused in Godhra train coach fire, who was absconding from 19 yrs & was arrested last yr by Godhra police has been given the punishment of life imprisonment under conspiracy to murder by Godhra sessions court:RC Kodekar, Special Public Prosecutor". (sic.)

Click here to view the post.

According to a report by The Times of India published on February 10, 2024, RC Kodekar, the prosecutor counsel in the 2002 Godhra train burning case, lodged a complaint with Cybercrime police on February 8, 2024 in response to posts falsely portraying him as a convict.

The report states that Kodekar accused a Twitter handle named "Sanatani Hindu" of posting a 'defamatory article' along with his photograph. BOOM was unable to independently verify the same. 

ANI Issues Clarification

Meanwhile, ANI issued a clarification on February 16, 2024, after the image of Kodekar, with the ANI logo went viral as Bhatuk.

The clarification post by ANI states, "This is to clarify that the picture in this earlier tweet is of RC Kodekar, Special Public Prosecutor NOT criminal Rafiq Bhatuk. A viral post on 'X' has posted ANI's picture with incorrect identification."  

Click here to view the post.

Rafiq Hussain Bhatuk: One of the prime conspirators in Godhra Train Case

Additionally, we found the image of Rafiq Hussain Bhatuk, one of the accused in the 2002 Godhra train coach fire, in a report published by Hindustan Times on July 4, 2022.

Hindustan Times published the photograph, crediting it to the Gujarat Police. According to the report, Bhatuk was associated with a group of accused individuals involved in planning the entire conspiracy, inciting the mob, and even procuring petrol to set the train compartment on fire.

Bhatuk reportedly fled to Delhi when his name surfaced during the investigation. The report further mentioned that acting on a precise tip-off, a team from the Godhra police conducted a nighttime raid on a residence in the Signal Falia area near the railway station, and apprehended Bhatuk in 2021.