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Train to Pakistan Paperback – February 11, 1994
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From the Back Cover
It is a place, Khushwant Singh goes on to tell us at the beginning of this classic novel, where Sikhs and Muslims have lived together in peace for hundreds of years. Then one day, at the end of the summer, the 'ghost train' arrives, a silent, incredible funeral train loaded with the bodies of thousands of refuges, bringing the village its first taste of the horrors of the civil war. Train to Pakistan is the story of this isolated village that is plunged into the abyss of religious hate. It is also the story of a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl whose love endures and transcends the ravages of war.
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Hukum Chand, the magistrate and the deputy commissioner for the district, is the quintessential Indian government lower-level babu that the author loves to hate. A corrupt, lecherous fellow who has risen in the ranks by toadying to his superiors, he puts together an elaborate plan to create dissension and violence in the village which he could later use to gain commendation by pretending to avert the tragedy.
The protagonists are Iqbal Singh, a young foreign educated communist social worker who comes to the village to awaken the poor, and Juggut Singh, a notorious illiterate bandit descended from a family of dacoits. Both of them have been prepared as the fall guys for the violence against the Muslim community that the officialdom has prepared by being arrested and detained by the police on false charges and then freed before the planned mass murder of Muslims which can later be blamed on them. But when the train to Pakistan is loaded with Muslim villagers who are set to be massacred shortly after leaving the train station, the mettle of the two heroes is tested. Iqbal Singh, the communist social worker and idealist who came to save the village is unwilling to intervene in this planned tragedy and finds rational intellectual reasons for his behaviour. It is the fearsome illiterate dacoit, Juggut Singh, outraged by the actions of outsiders creating this violence in his own village, together with his love for a Muslim girl in the train, who bravely executes a desperate plan that foils the murderers and in the process willingly submits to an act of self-sacrifice and a horrible death.
It is a novel of suspense and riveting tension. It is a story of the contrived corruption of innocence and the final triumph of simple rural values over urban sophistication.
With its genuine warmth and the subdued elegance of its writing, it makes one weep over the repeated foolishness of humankind.
A classic by one of India's greatest writers.