A burning railway bogie on the narrow gauge between Pratap Nagar and Dabhoi railway line in Vadodara on Sunday morning had many people watching from their rooftops nearby. The burning bogie was part of a film shoot to re-create the attack on S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002, in which 59 passengers, mainly kar sewaks returning from Ayodhya, were killed, which set off riots across Gujarat.
The Indian Express has learnt that the Western Railways and the Vadodara fire department had given permission to shoot the film, which, according to an executive of the production company, “captures the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” It is slated for a social media release ahead of the 2019 elections.
Western Railway PRO Khemraj Meena said, “Permission was given to shoot the documentary film here. It was shot at the narrow gauge Vishwamitri railway station. No rail traffic was affected in the process of the shoot and the bogie being used for the shoot was provided by us. It is a mock-drill bogie and was unused.”
Said Jayraj Gadhvi, who is the supervising executive of the shoot in Gujarat and who signed the letter seeking fire tenders from the Vadodara Municipal Corporation to shoot the scene: “It is a biopic documentary that captures the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This particular scene speaks of the challenges he faced. The Railways has given us the coach to shoot the scenes of the outside of the train, which shows the burning coach. However the scenes from inside the train will be shot at a film set in Mumbai.”
A letter dated March 2, from ‘Benchmark Production’, Mumbai, signed by Gadhvi and addressed to the Chief Fire Officer of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, seeks a fire engine at the spot of the film’s shoot. “On March 3, we are shooting a biopic (autobiography) documentary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the old railway station of Pratap Nagar-Dabhoi railway line next to Zenith school. Please provide us with one fire tender along with staff at the location. We are willing to pay the fees for the service as decided by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation.”
When contacted, Vadodara BJP MP and city unit president, Ranjan Bhatt, said, “We have no information that such a documentary has been commissioned by the party leaders or that it is being shot in Vadodara,” he said.
Western Railway CPRO Ravindra Bhakar told The Indian Express that the script the film’s production company showed his office did not mention “Godhra”. “It has been a week or so since the permission was granted and as far as I know, they wanted to shoot something recreating the Prime Minister selling tea on railway platforms. We go through the script and as a policy, do not permit anything that harms the image of Railways and the country. If they have set fire to a rolling stock or damaged railway property, then we can claim their deposit, claim insurance etc. We make them sign indemnity bond as well,” he said.
Divisional Railway Manager of Vadodara Devendra Kumar said that he would have the incident investigated to check if the production company violated any permissions.
With inputs from Avishek Dastidar