Train to Pakistan is a novel written by Khushwant Singh in 1956. Khushwant Singh is a kind of writer who is known for his sense of realism. Train to Pakistan is a partition novel. In this novel we can find a beautiful blend of history and fiction. The division of India in 1947 created a chaos which resulted in violence. There are several other partition novels like Manohar Malgonkar’s A Bend in the Ganges and Chaman Nahal’s Azadi where we can find a good balance between history and fiction. In the present novel it is noteworthy to find that the author has used train symbolically. People have different reactions on the arrival of a train at the station. It can be understood by the following lines-
“The village was stilled in a deathly silence. No one asked anyone else what the odour was. They all knew. They had known it all the time. The answer was implicit in the fact that the train had come from Pakistan.”1
The villagers of Mano Majra were ignorant enough to understand the meaning of partition. They were busy in their own lives. Hindus and Muslims used to live together peacefully. The arrival of train from Pakistan created rift between the villagers. The train carried almost fifteen hundred dead bodies. Passengers were charred to death. It was the trauma of Partition which was witnessed by the villagers of Mano Majra. People started to doubt on one another causing distrust among each other. This distrust was caused by the rumors where it was thought that Muslims were responsible for such terrible incidents. Thus, there were tension between communities like the Hindus and the Muslims. Villages like Mano Majra were considered as peaceful but here also the seeds of enmity were planted by the politicians. The community of the Sikhs and the Hindus were separated from the community of the Muslims after such incidents. In this increasing rift even women and children were not spared. Everywhere people were scared of the violence and the bloodshed. Women were considered as a tool to take revenge because they were seen as a property. It can be felt by the following lines taken from the novel-
“Sikh refugees had told of women jumping into wells and burning themselves rather than fall into the hands of Muslims. Those who did not commit suicide were paraded naked in the streets, raped in public, and then murdered”2
The innocent villagers of Mano Majra have nothing to do with the politics behind the division of the nation. They were made to believe that Muslims can never be their friends. This is one of the prime reasons that the property of the Muslims were either looted or destroyed by the local government or villagers. Muslims of Mano Majra were compelled to go to the nearby refugee camps. When a fanatic Sikh speaks about taking revenge from the Muslims everybody remains silent. He says that-
“Do you know how many trainloads of dead Sikhs and Hindus have come over? Do you know of the massacres in Rawalpindi and Multan, Gujranwala and Sheikhupura? What are you doing about it? You just eat and sleep and call yourselves Sikhs–the brave Sikhs! The martial class!”3
It becomes evident that by the use of such rhetoric questions people were encouraged to take part in communal violence. In this novel Khushwant Singh has tried to show us that how people were driven for insanity. People who were used to live like brothers became enemy of one another. It seems that people have justified what Bacon said in his essay that revenge is a kind of wild justice. This kind of revenge is linked to another revenge which forms a chain. This is a never ending process and even after partition and division of the country political parties often talk of such issues. It is a matter of concern because Khushwant Singh has already talked about such issues. We can say that he was a kind of writer who was very far ahead of his contemporaries. His vision was different because he was a learned man. It is reflected in his art of characterization.
- Singh, Khushwant. Train to Pakistan. Grove New York,1981.p.84