The Railway Men, the new Netflix miniseries from India, is about a bunch of officials who went out of their way to safeguard and protect the people stuck at Bhopal Junction and offer relief to the tragedy-inflicted town. The show is based on a real story and the amount of work the railway officials conducted to save as many people as possible from getting affected by the toxic gas that was released into the air. The show was more about a rescue mission amidst the tragedy that was unfolding. There were many expected and unexpected heroes who came forward to help people in distress. One of them was the Bhopal Junction Station Master, Iftekaar Siddiqui.
Who Was Iftekaar Siddiqui?
The Railway Men began with a montage of Iftekaar having a nightmare about a train accident he was involved in. For the longest time up until then, he was consumed by guilt for not being able to save a young boy from plummeting to his death. At the time the show is set in the year 1984, Iftekaar was content with having a steady government job as a station master with the Indian Railways, and he always made sure to lead an honest life. He was also a good boss to everyone working with or under him. The show began several hours before the gas leak occurred, and Iftekaar, as usual, reported for duty and got immersed in his daily routine. Iftekaar was a diligent person who always made sure all work was completed on time. He was also the kind of person who had a keen eye and was able to locate and understand problems and find solutions. The first chore of his day was to fix the communication line so that other stations could resume calls with them from that day on. Iftekaar was also instrumental in hiring Imad Riaz.
Iftekaar was a generous person as well, who wanted the best for everyone who worked for him. He never had any superiority complex because of the position he held at the station. One of his generous gestures included helping one of his employees with her daughter’s wedding. He made sure to make an appearance out of the love and respect he had for all his employees. All the above scenes were set up in the show to paint a picture of Iftekaar’s personality. He also came in touch with a person who claimed to be RPF personnel and was looking for the infamous Express Bandit. Express Bandit was a dacoit on the run from the law for robbing people who were traveling in trains. His last victim was a member of parliament, and there was a warrant out for him.
The person he met masquerading as the RPF personnel was the real Express Bandit, who wanted to safeguard an important bag containing money. Iftekaar had no reason to doubt him and asked him to store the luggage in his office. This was the first time the two men got in touch and little did they know about the harrowing night they were about to witness.
When Were His Skills As A Leader Tested?
His leadership skills were challenged when he witnessed many people at the station coughing, choking, and collapsing. The man was unaware of the reason behind these sudden deaths that were occurring, as he could also sense a pungent smell in the air. Iftekaar and the RPF personnel restricted the people who were not yet exposed to the air to the waiting room at the station. Iftekaar’s first task was to make sure the body count wasn’t further added to inside the waiting room, but sadly, he and all the people in that small space ended up witnessing the horrors of the gas leak. Iftekaar was as clueless as anybody in that room until Imad showed up to talk about his familiarity with this gas leak. He requested Iftekaar and everyone in the waiting room to cover their mouth and nose with a wet cloth to avoid inhaling the gas. The chemicals that leaked had the full potential to affect their eyesight. Iftekaar had never come across a disaster of this magnitude and was hoping to come across a solution that could help him and the people at the junction stay alive for a longer period of time.
How Did Iftekaar Protect The Remaining People At The Station?
Along with Imad, they head to the repair shed and bring back one bogie of the goods train in the hope of keeping everyone in it so that they do not expose themselves and can be moved to another city further away from Bhopal. The presence of mind would not have worked if not for Iftekaar’s tremendous experience being a leader and taking charge in times of crisis. Iftekaar was willing to take as many leaps of faith as needed to make sure people were safe. The amount of recklessness he faced from the people was bordering on a mob-like situation.
Iftekaar managed to avoid the collision of two trains coming from opposite directions, and that was a sign of a leader who was able to work under extreme pressure. There was pressure to make sure there were no further casualties. The collision would increase the burden on the local hospitals in the city, as the gas leak has already spread throughout the city. Iftekaar spoke in detail about the guilt of being unable to save a kid after a train accident. His guilt is the reason the man was hell-bent on saving every person alive under his watch. Thankfully, the collision with a passenger train did not occur, but it caused a bigger commotion when the people on the same train were in a frenzy and unable to understand why they could not be deboarded because of the leak. In his bid to stop the stampede, Iftekaar was run over by a sea of people who were unable to understand the situation at hand.
Was Iftekaar Dead Or Alive?
The man eventually became unconscious, and it was initially assumed he died because he inhaled the poisonous gas in the air. He was a fighter who succumbed while trying to pacify and save the people from an awful fate. Assuming he had died, his body was shifted for cremation until his son came looking for his mortal remains. He came out of his deep unconscious state at the mass cremation ground and was taken home by his son. The man had not realized the magnitude of the effort he took just to save the people of his city from perishing.
Iftekaar’s life picks up in a few months after the tragedy, and he has joined the same workplace. The only difference was that Express Bandit came back to introduce himself and understood the need to help others over committing crimes in the hour of need. He introduces himself as Balwant Yadav, which is probably the only time he reveals his identity to anyone. Iftekaar was one of the true heroes of the crisis; he stood up against all odds and worked tirelessly till the situation was brought under control.