On March 4, Indian Express published a report which claimed “Train coach set on fire to recreate Godhra attack for ‘biopic on Modi’”. The article claimed a burning bogie was plied on the narrow gauge between Pratap Nagar and Dabhoi railway line “which many people watched from their rooftops”.
Soon, other media outlets also picked up the story. Deccan Chronicle and DBPost also picked up. While most reports mentioned the movie which was being shot was ‘Modi’s biopic’, DBPost referred to the same as a ‘documentary’ on PM Modi. However, The Times of India did report the next day that the film crew has refuted claims of setting the coach on fire.
In 2002, the Sabarmati Express returning from Ayodhya was set on fire by a mob near Godhra railway station in Gujarat where 59 people were burnt alive. Following the carnage, the state witnessed widespread communal violence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the then chief minister of Gujarat. Additional security forces were called in and the state returned to normalcy over the next few days.
Propaganda website The Wire, too picked up the Indian Express story to claim that the ‘train fire’ was recreated for Narendra Modi biopic. The Wire reports, “On February 27, 2002, coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express caught fire and 59 passengers, mostly Vishwa Hindu Parishad members and kar sevaks who were on their way back from Ayodhya were killed. The deaths triggered communal riots across Gujarat.”
The coach S-6 of Sabarmati Express did not ‘catch fire’ but it was actually set on fire. In August 2018, a special trial court has sentenced two more accused, Farukh Bhana and Imran alias Sheru Batuk, to life imprisonment in relation to the case of burning the Sabarmati Express train in 2002 at Godhra railway station that led to communal riots in Gujarat. Hence, to term the Godhra carnage as an accident is also factually incorrect.
However, the reports that the filmmakers set a train coach on fire to recreate the carnage scene are fake. OpIndia reached out to Dhaval Pandya, a crew member of the film unit who confirmed that no such train coach was set on fire. “We even got the NOC from the railways that the coach was returned in proper condition,” Pandya said. He added that neither this is a biopic nor a documentary, it is a film and does have dramatised versions of the life of Prime Minister Modi. To call it biopic or documentary is both wrong.