‘The Railway Men’ True Story Explained: Is It Different From The Real-Life Incidents?


The Railway Men, directed by Shiv Rawail, made us witness the horrific incident that shook the nation back on December 2, 1984, when the news of a gas leak came out of the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal. Such an incident was unheard of in the nation, and people had no clue about the kind of havoc that poisonous gas, i.e., methyl isocyanate (MIC), was going to wreak on the entire city. The country had dealt with hostilities earlier, but never had the enemy been an invisible gas and nobody knew what to do in the wake of such a calamity. The people had no clue what measures to take to curb the impact, and before the experts arrived and the government of India made a plan of action, the damage had already been done. Imagine the chaos that each and every person residing in that area would have felt that night and how paranoid, scared, and traumatized they would have been seeing their own loved ones gasping for breath and dying in front of their own eyes. Those who were lucky enough to survive the carnage were haunted by the memories of that fateful day their entire lives. As the series showed, there were some who were brave enough to risk their lives and stand tall when the cloud of death loomed above them. The Railway Men is an ode to those unsung heroes, and it is inspired by real-life events. Though Shiv Rawail has taken creative liberties to include certain fictional characters to create engaging conflicts, the essence of the story has been kept intact. The fact that a leak happened due to the negligence of Union Carbide management was an undeniable fact, and even though the Indian courts were not able to put the perpetrators behind bars, it didn’t mean that they were absolved of the sins that they had committed.

Was the Express Bandit present at the Bhopal Station?

At the beginning of The Railway Men, we saw that Balwant Yadav, who was infamously known as the express bandit, came to the Bhopal station to steal the money that was kept in the secured vault inside the station master’s office. The character is played by Divyendu Sharma, and it is not inspired by any real-life person. It is one of the most intriguing and meaty conflicts that the narrative brings forth. We absolutely loved the subplot where a crook came to steal but got stuck and later did something to save the integrity of that one man i.e. the station master, whom he saw risking his life, showcasing the real meaning of the word selflessness on that fateful day. The Express Bandit was in a kind of dilemma and after he saw Iftekaar Siddiqui dying in front of his own eyes he took the keys of the vault, and even took the money. But when he saw the people putting allegations on the station master he felt as if he was attacked personally. In the end he decided to keep the money back, as he genuinely respected the valor and courage showcased by the station master and he didn’t want anyone to ruin his legacy.  

Was Jagmohan Kumawat based on a real-life character?

The character of Jagmohan Kumawat, played by Sunny Hinduja, is based on a real-life journalist, Rajkumar Keswani who alerted the authorities of the impending doom approximately 3 years before the tragedy happened. Rajkumar’s friend, Mohammad Ashraf (called Mohammed Ansari in the series), who worked for the Union Carbide plant, died in 1981 due to a gas leak. It was Ashraf who had informed Rajkumar Keswani about how the American company was not taking any safety measures and how they were risking the lives of not only the employees but of the entire town. After nine months of thorough research, after the death of Ashraf, Keswani published his first report, but no one paid any attention to it. The local authorities asked Keswani to stop over analyzing things as the Union Carbide was giving employment to a lot of people and was contributing to the economy of the state. Had the authorities carried out their duties, they would have found the kind of risk the American-based company was putting the entire population in. Keswani came into the limelight after the gas leak, and he was interviewed by all major media houses as he was the only one who had the knowledge about what had happened. Keswani got many awards for his investigative journalism, but he always said that he regretted the fact that nobody heard his voice when he was shouting at the top of his lungs and telling the people about the danger they were in. Keswani passed away on May 21, 2021, probably because he was suffering from COVID-19.

Did the station master help the passengers?

K.K. Menon plays the character of Iftekaar Siddiqui, who is also inspired by a real-life person named Ghulam Dastagir, who was the Deputy Station Master at the Bhopal junction. I personally believe that he who wins the war for his side is a true warrior, but a greater warrior is the one who knows that he is going to end up on the losing side but still puts up a fight till his last breath. For us, Ghulam Dastagir was that man. He could have easily abandoned his post and at least tried to save himself. But he realized his duties. He understood that the lives of hundreds of people were in his hands, and so he decided to stand his ground and fight the calamity till his last breath. Ghulam Dastagir made sure that the trains that were coming to Bhopal were diverted at all costs, and he realized that he was extremely short on manpower, so he himself went out to do the needful, not caring if he lived or died. In reality, Ghulam Dastagir lost his own son due to the gas leak, but the man still kept on going and saved hundreds of lives that day. Ghulam had exposed himself to the MIC for a prolonged period of time, and it was a miracle that he was still alive. In 2003, Ghulam Dastagir succumbed to the diseases that were caused as a direct result of exposure.

Who was at fault for the gas leak?

The management, the board members, and each and every American national who had the power to amend things and make decisions at Union Carbide India Limited were responsible for the gas leaks. No safety measures were taken, no gear was provided, no training programs were carried out for the employees, and the management staff treated the poor workers merely as fodder. Even after the tragedy occurred, the American businessman Warren Anderson, instead of feeling guilty or accepting his faults, made sure that he saved himself from getting convicted. Justice was never served to the victims of the Bhopal tragedy, as Anderson was never extradited by the government of the United States of America, and he peacefully passed away on September 29, 2014, at the age of 92.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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