On December 30, Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually flagged off the Vande Bharat Express connecting Howrah to New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. Three days later, there were reports of stone pelting at the Vande Bharat Express near Malda station. Following this, BJP leaders and news outlets shared a few images as scenes from the ground after the stone-pelting incident on the train. The images feature a smashed window and glass shards scattered on seats.
In a now-deleted tweet, BJP West Bengal president Sukanta Majumdar shared a few pictures while mentioning the stone pelting on the Vande Bharat. Shortly afterward, he posted another tweet featuring a segment from channel News18.
CNN News18 also reported on the vandalism of the Vande Bharat train in one of its programmes. This was also tweeted by BJP MLA and West Bengal assembly Opposition leader Suvendu Adhikari.
Times Now also used the following images in its coverage of the stone-pelting at the Vande Bharat Express. (Archived link)
In its report on the incident, The Telegraph also described the viral picture as a file photo of the Vande Bharat Express. (Archived link)
The Asansol BJP district organization also amplified the images. (Archived link)
Alt News performed a Bengali keyword search on a Facebook tool called CrowdTangle. We found posts written in Bengali which claimed the image showed coach D3 of the Purulia Express (12827). According to these posts, the incident occurred on January 1 when someone threw a stone at the Purulia Express before it crossed Panskura in West Bengal. This broke one of the windows of a coach, injuring a male passenger. The posts all contained similar information with the name ‘Pranabesh Sen’ mentioned at the bottom of each. For example, such posts can be seen here and here.
Using this information as a clue, we tracked down Pranabesh Sen on Facebook and found an account by this name. In addition to the photo in circulation, the user had shared other pictures related to the incident on January 1.
We noticed that a user commented on Sen's Facebook post stating that he knew the victim who had been injured during the incident. Along with this, the user mentioned an account named Soumitra Kole. The ‘About’ section of this user's account states that he is the sub-divisional horticulture officer of Purulia Sadar. After this, we performed a keyword search on Google using filters. This led us to the contact details of Dr. Soumitra Kole on the website of the department of food processing and horticulture, government of West Bengal.
We reached out to Dr. Soumitra Kole for more information. He confirmed that on January 1, he was allotted seat number 78 in the D3 coach of the Purulia Express. Around 5:30, somebody threw a stone from the outside, which broke the glass of the window, seriously injuring him. His lip was cut and one of his upper teeth was broken following the incident. His fellow passengers informed the TTE about this, who provided first aid to Dr. Kole with their help. After this, he was treated at the local railway hospital when the train reached Kharagpur station. He is currently recuperating. Dr. Kole also sent us Alt News a picture from the day of the incident which confirms that it took place on the Purulia Express and not on the Vande Bharat Express.
Using a keyword search on YouTube, we found a vlog dated December 29. In this video, a YouTuber by the name of MOinsideHIT showed the first look of the Vande Bharat Express kept in the railway yard before its inauguration. We compared the seats in the viral picture with the seats of the executive class and chair car shown in this video. As shown in the comparison below, it is evident that these seats are not the same as the ones found in the Vande Bharat Express.
To sum it up, the viral picture does not show the aftermath of stone-pelting at the Vande Bharat Express, but the Purulia Express. However, some media outlets also used this picture in their reports without verification.