How an ISKCON temple near Balasore train accident site is helping victims, volunteers

Miscreants on social media were running fake news that temple was a mosque to disturb communal harmony.

Updated - June 08, 2023 09:59 pm IST

Published - June 06, 2023 01:51 pm IST - Bahanaga Bazar

A view of the Bahanaga ISKCON temple, which is close to the Balasore train accident site in Odisha.

A view of the Bahanaga ISKCON temple, which is close to the Balasore train accident site in Odisha. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

While miscreants on social media try to paint the Odisha triple train tragic accident that left at least 275 people dead and more than thousands of people injured, in communal colour, Tukna Das (45), is quietly involved in his manual labour at an ISKCON temple, which is next to the location of the collision site in Balasore.

A day after the June 2 accident, various social media handles claimed that there was a mosque near the accident site. However, what was being portrayed as a mosque is actually the Bahanaga ISKCON temple. It is a partially-constructed temple and Mr. Das who hails from Ganjam district works there as a mason. 

Watch | Odisha train tragedy| ‘Not a mosque’ - ISKCON temple staff debunk fake news

Every day, after his work, Mr. Das would sit on the first floor terrace of the ISKCON temple and watch trains snake past, and this has been his routine for the past one and a half months. On the day of the tragic incident that claimed many lives, Mr. Das was wrapping up his work as the evening descended on the Bahanaga Bazar station.

Tukna Das.

Tukna Das. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“There is nothing else to do in this sleepy village and so our favourite pastime is just watching the chugging trains. On the fateful day of the accident, as I sat with my fellow workers at 6.50 p.m. atop the terrace, I saw that Howrah-Yeshwantpur Express was passing by, and at the same time, from the opposite side there was a huge collision between Coromandel Express and the goods freight train. It felt like there was a huge blast,” Mr. Das told The Hindu. 

Mr. Das said he and his friends rushed to the accident spot with water bottles at around 7 p.m. and started locating bodies using their mobile phone lights. “We fed water to some of the victims and rescued a few of those who had lost limbs but still could be ferried to the ambulance and then rushed them to the hospitals. I took out nearly thirteen people from the mangled remains in two hours,” Mr. Das recounts. 

Helplessly, Mr. Das adds, “Everyone was crying out for help. We were in a dilemma as to who we could save first.” A daily wage labourer, Mr. Das was wearing the lone trousers he owned and that too got drenched in blood. “Later, I had to dispose it of,” he says. 

After the accident, the ISKCON temple became a centre to rest and recoup, for the victims, National Disaster Response Force personnel, railway officials and other volunteers who would drink water or have food there.

“It is the peak of summer, and the dangers of dehydration and Sun stroke run high at the accident site. Since June 2, we are doing sewa and are continuously feeding people at site. On June 3, 400 people had food here, and on June 4, nearly thousand people were fed. On June 5, another 200 to 300 people were having food,” said Chaitan Chandra Das (76), president, ISKCON Gadei Giri, who is coordinating relief efforts at the accident site. 

Chaitan Chandra Das, president, ISKCON Gadei Giri, who is coordinating for the relief efforts at the accident site. 

Chaitan Chandra Das, president, ISKCON Gadei Giri, who is coordinating for the relief efforts at the accident site.  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Mr. Chandra Das added that a few miscreants were trying to spread fake news that the temple structure was a mosque, in a bid to spread misinformation and disturb communal harmony. “It is nonsense. Why are people touting this structure as a mosque on social media? This is an under-construction temple since 2004, as we don’t get much donation in remote parts of the State, but, we are still working here selflessly for relief works. Please do not believe fake news,” he requested. 

Dattatray Shinde, District Magistrate of Balasore appealed to the public to not indulge in spreading fake news on lines of religious affiliations of local railway personnel or regarding the number of people who died in the accident. “Some social media handles claim that there have been more than thousand deaths, but we have recovered 275 bodies and have now cleared the accident site,” Mr. Shinde told The Hindu. Also, nearly fifty railway personnel have been placed under enquiry and have been asked to not resume duties until the official enquiry is over. 

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