A disturbing video showing a man who is naked and whose hands are bound behind his back being assaulted with a paddle is being shared with a false claim that it shows the station master of Balasore in Odisha being interrogated after he fled and was caught following the deadly train accident.
The video shows a man naked lying face down, with his hands tied behind his back; being continuously beaten with a wooden paddle even as he cries in pain. Along with the video is an inset photo of a uniformed Indian railways station master in a control room.
Both are being shared with a claim in Hindi that translates to, "First on this group, The main accused in Balasore train accident, Mohammed Sharif Station Master, was hiding in West Bengal in a Madarsa. He's now caught by CBI. CBI, ED and local police will all question him one by one)
(Original text in Hindi - सबसे पहले इसी गरूप में बालासोर ट्रेन हादसे का मुख्य आरोपी मौ० शरीफ स्टेशन मास्टर पश्चिम बंगाल में मदरसे में छिपा था चढ़ा CBI के हत्थे CBI,ED,स्थानीय पुलिस सभी बारी बारी से पुछताछ करेगी)
Close to 290 lives were lost on June 2, 2023 in a triple-train collision involving two passenger trains and a goods train near Odisha's Bahanaga Bazar railway station in Balasore district. Preliminary reports stated that the accident was caused after the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express allegedly changed its direction, entering a loop line, where it hit a stationary goods train on the same line. The high-impact collision caused several coaches of the Coromandel Express to derail and crash into Yesvantpur-Howrah Express approaching the Bahanaga Bazar station through the main line. The investigation into the cause of the accident has since been transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Since the accident, BOOM has debunked several claims giving a communal hue to the tragic accident, including a false communal claim about the religion of the station master of the Bahanaga Bazar railway station where the accident occurred and another claim which said there was a mosque beside the tracks near the accident spot.
BOOM found that the claim is false as both the video and photo being shared are old and not related to the Odisha train accident.
PHOTO OF STATION MASTER
We first ran a search for the inset picture of the uniformed railway official seen in the bottom corner of the viral video. Below is a clearer photo of the same
We noticed the text - Borra Guhalu - written on the control panel being used by the railway employee and found that it is a station located in Borra, Alluri Sitharamaraju district in Andhra Pradesh. Using this as a keyword we then ran a reverse image search on the photo and found the same uploaded on the blog of a photographer and trainspotter Vikas Chander in 2004.
The photo was uploaded to a photo blog by Chander describing his journey from Kotavalasa to Kirandul in South Eastern part of India. According to the blog, the photo was clicked by Chander on March 6, 2004 showing the station master of the Borra Guhulu railway station.
The caption of the photo uploaded by Chander reads, "We walked back to the station and had breakfast with the station master..."
We then ran a search for the viral video which shows a man being brutally beaten while he is lying naked, face down with his hands tied behind his back. Keywords describing the scene showed the same video uploaded several times on gore and pornographic sites since 2021 claiming it showed a man getting beaten by Mexican cartel members for stealing from them.
Additionally, we also found a Reddit thread on the same video with the text description, "Thief beaten with paddle for stealing from cartel. I don't know what organization the torturers or the handcuffed man belong to". The upload date as shown on Reddit is "October 30, 2021"
BOOM could not independently verify the location or the context behind the viral video but was able to confirm that the viral video is old and not related to the Odisha train accident or any of the railway employees being questioned for the same.
Railway PRO Refutes Viral Message
We further reached out to Aditya Kumar Chaudhary, Chief Public Relations Officer, South Eastern Railway. He said, "No railway employee is absconding. All of them are cooperating with the investigation. Additionally there is no station master or railway employee named Sharif Ali who is part of the investigation."
BOOM has previously debunked a viral claim that the station master of Bahanaga Bazar railway station was a man named Sharif Ali who allegedly fled the scene moments after the accident. Chaudhary had then told BOOM that the station master is SB Mohanty and not Sharif Ali. He also rubbished claims that the station master fled the scene, adding that, he was present and coordinating rescue operations.