Train to Pakistan

Train to Pakistan Summary and Analysis of Mano Majra


Since the arrival of the train and its grisly contents, a brooding silence has fallen over Mano Majra. Neighbors begin looking suspiciously at one another, and think of forming alliances. Everyone watches the train station anxiously, waiting to see if another train of dead will come through their town. Thus, when the head constable, some officers, and Malli’s gang start heading for Mano Majra, they are spotted a mile away. The head constable follows the subinspector’s instructions and releases Malli and his gang in the middle of Mano Majra, in front of the village’s people. The Mano Majrans are first upset because they know Jugga and Iqbal had nothing to do with the dacoity. However, they believe Malli and his gang might possibly be innocent, because they don’t believe the police would release Lala Ram Lal’s murderers in the very village he lived in.

Malli and his gang released, the head constable continues with the rest of the plan. He asks about Sultana and his gang, spreading the idea that the Muslim gang killed the Hindu moneylender before fleeing to Pakistan. He then asks about babu Iqbal Mohammed, thus painting Iqbal as Muslim, educated, and therefore cunning. Meet Singh tries to defend Iqbal, and assert that he is Sikh, but the head constable ignores him. His words have already had the intended effect of planting seeds of doubt and discord in Mano Majra. The head constable completes the tasks the subinspector laid out for him by instructing one of his constables to bring a letter to the commander of the Pakistan military unit. In the letter, the head constable tells the commander that the situation in Mano Majra is dire, and that he must send trucks and soldiers to evacuate the Mano Majra Muslims at once.

The head constable’s visit cuts Mano Majra in half. Suddenly, villagers that lived together in harmony look at each other with fear and suspicion. Both sides recall acts of violence and betrayal the other side committed in the past, and distrust boils. At the lambardar’s house, a group of Sikh peasants gather and discuss the events. Some say they are being punished for their sins, while one young man is angry at the Muslims he treated as brothers. Meet Singh acts as the voice of reason and attempts to cool the group’s flaring tempers. However, it’s not until the lambardar suggests that the Sikh refugees may attempt to harm Mano Majra’s Muslims that tempers are doused. Even the angry young man is upset at the idea of outsiders harming his neighbors, even if they are Muslims, and dares anyone to raise a hand against his neighbors.

The lambardar points out the situation isn’t so clear cut. The Punjab code includes a sacred duty to be hospitable to those who are homeless. So, they cannot simply reject or attack Sikh refugees who threaten their Muslim neighbors. The lambardar then says that the Muslims of the surrounding villages have already been evacuated. Another villager speaks up, and says they could never make their Muslim brothers leave Mano Majra. That would be like asking their own sons to leave their homes. At this point, Imam Baksh and two other Muslims enter the lambardar’s house.

Imam Baksh is grave. He asks his Sikh neighbors what they’ve decided to do with them. The lambardar counters and asserts that the Muslim Mano Majrans have as much right to live in the village as the Sikhs. A young man speaks up and declares the Sikhs will defend their Muslim neighbors till the very end. His heroic statement makes the imam break down. To him and the other Muslims, Pakistan is a foreign land. The lambardar agrees with Imam Baksh, but voices concerns about the mobs of angry Sikh refugees coming from Pakistan. He advises that Imam Baksh and the other Muslims go to the refugee camp and wait for the danger to pass.

At the lambardar’s words, a stillness settles over the meeting. Imam Baksh says he will start to pack now, because it will take him more than a night to clear the home his ancestors spend hundreds of years making. At this, the lambardar embraces the imam and begins to sob. The rest of the meeting follows suit, with Sikhs and Muslims crying in each other arms like children. Imam Baksha leaves in tears, and goes to tell his daughter Nooran to begin packing. Nooran refuses to go to Pakistan, and wonders how they are being thrown out of their village. Her father brushes aside her defiance, and leaves to tell the other Muslims what has transpired. Nooran uses this as an opportunity to sneak out.

She goes to Jugga’s house, hoping he will help her stay in Mano Majra. When she arrives, no one is home, as Jugga is still imprisoned in Chundunnugger, and Jugga’s mother has gone to visit friends. When Jugga’s mother returns, she’s not happy to see Nooran. She yells and screams at her son’s lover, until Nooran reveals she is carrying Jugga’s child. Nooran begins to cry, but Jugga’s mother reassures her, and tells her Jugga will surely come and get her once he’s released from prison. This fills Nooran with fragile hope, and she leaves Jugga’s house to go pack up her and her father’s meager belongings.

The next day the convoy of trucks from the Muslim refugee arrives in Mano Majra. The Muslim officer instructs his soldiers to go round up the Muslims who are leaving. As the Muslims come with their livestock and bullock carts, the officer makes it clear that there isn’t enough space for animals and carts. The Muslims will be transported to Pakistan via train, and there’s only enough room for clothes, bedding, cash, and jewelry. This sends ripples through the crowd of Mano Majrans. For starters, everyone thought the Muslims were only going to refugee camp for a few days, not to Pakistan indefinitely. Furthermore, as the lambardar explains, property is a touchy subject, even amongst brothers, and it would be dangerous for the Mano Majra Muslims to leave their things behind.

The Muslim officer won’t be swayed, as there’s physically no space for the property. He gives the Mano Majra Muslims 10 minutes to gather the belongings they can carry, arrange for others to watch the remainder of their things, and board the trucks. Chaos ensues, and in the middle of it stands Malli and his group of dacoits. A Sikh officer reassures the Mano Majrans that he will make arrangements for the protection of the Muslims’ property. At this point, the Mano Majra Muslims barely have enough time to board the trucks, much less say goodbye. They shout their farewells from the trucks, as their Sikh neighbors watch them leave and cry. Once the convoy is out of sight, the Sikh soldier who promised to protect the property appoints Malli as the custodian of the evacuated Muslims’ property. As the Sikhs of Mano Majra watch, Malli’s gang and the Sikh refugees from Pakistan loot the bullock carts, and drive the livestock away.


The head constable’s visit to Mano Majra, and his spread of the lie that Lala Ram Lal was murdered by a Muslim group of dacoits increases the religious divide the ghost train created among the villagers. At the instruction the subinspector and Hukum Chand, the head constable uses his position and clout to manipulate the Mano Majrans into believing a lie they had known not to be true. Many of them saw Iqbal arrive in town after the murder, but because the constable is a government official, they begin to doubt themselves. This is yet another way corruption plays a role in the novel’s events.

In order to manipulate the masses, the head constable draws upon stereotypes about Muslims and educated people. For example, when he names Iqbal as a suspect, he emphasizes the man’s possible connection to the Muslim League and his education. For the villagers who heard Iqbal was a social worker from Delhi, this makes him seem like a lying and scheming Muslim agitator. Suddenly, no one is sure about Iqbal, because as they say, “one could never be sure about educated people; they were all suspiciously cunning” (Singh 166). Implicating the Muslim dacoits and a Muslim Leaguer in the murder of a Hindu villager divides Mano Majra in half, leading to increased distrust and tension on both sides. Suddenly, the threat of religious persecution and violence that seemed impossible in Mano Majra seems almost possible.

The angry young man at the lambardar’s house is a voice for the anger and betrayal the Sikhs are feeling after the head constable’s announcement. He too spouts racist stereotypes about Muslims, calling them pigs, snakes, and thieves. Meet Singh, as a religious leader in the village, must step up, act as a moral compass, and remind the youth of their connection to the Muslims in their own community. The lambardar, as another unofficial village leader, also speaks up and points out that the lives of their Muslims may be in danger. Ironically, the same young man who called the Mano Majra Muslims pigs is now indignant on their behalf and swears to defend theme. Here, it’s clear how the Mano Majra sense of community and loyalty to one’s neighbors trumps religious bias and bigotry.

When Imam Baksh and the other Muslims joined the meeting at the lambardar’s house, the mood of the gathering turned. The possible displacement of the Mano Majra Muslims stopped being propaganda and became a reality. As Imam Baksh makes his case for why the Muslims should stay, he gives a voice to the millions of Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims forced to leave their homelands. He disavows any connection to Pakistan, argues that his ancestors were born here, and reminds everyone they have lived as brothers for generations. As the mullah speaks, questions of national identity come to mind. What does it mean to be Indian? What does it mean to be Pakistani? And what is the deciding factor, religion, familial origin, or one's current homeland? By the end of the meeting the answer is not clear, but the push of religious persecution and bigotry has forced an answer. Muslims must go to Pakistan, and Sikhs and Hindus to India.

Property, one of the principal concerns of Mano Majra and the surrounding areas, is described in detail in this chapter of the novel. As Nooran painstakingly packs her father’s bag, the contents of a Punjabi peasant’s baggage are listed out. The simplicity of the baggage is striking, because we realize that when the Muslims of Mano Majra leave, they won’t be going with much. Tragically, when the military convoy comes to take them to the refugee camp, they must reduce the little they’ve packed, and leave behind their livestock, which represents a tangible form of income. Ironically, Malli and his gang, who murdered one of the villagers, is left in charge of the Muslims’ property, and immediately loot it. The unfairness of the situation isn’t lost on the Mano Majrans, but all they can do is stand by and watch what’s happening to their village.