Md. Abu Jafor

Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Rebecca Weaver-Hightower


Pleas for Partition in Train to Pakistan

Most readers and critics of fictional works about the Partition of British India (that is the division of British India into India and Pakistan upon independence from the British in 1947) agree that writers tend to paint religious differences as the root cause of the communal conflict that eventually led to Partition. This tendency to blame Partition on religion is also found in critics who study Khushwant Singh's novel Train to Pakistan. In contrast, this thesis will demonstrate that instead of blaming communal diversity (in other words "difference of religion") as the root cause of Partition, Singh blames Partition on self-interested politicians. Singh's novel does not show any dissatisfaction among the different ethnic groups in India before Partition. Rather, it portrays communal harmony with individuals enjoying the full freedom of their religious rights.

Singh accomplishes this portrayal largely through focusing on a microcosm of India in the fictional small village of Mano Majra on the India and Pakistan borders where inhabitants of different faiths live like brothers. In fact, the citizens of the village openly resist the decision of Partition by expressing their intentions to fight against external forces to protect their neighbors if attacked in the name of religious differences. Instead, by showing communal harmony and showing violence as coming from the top down--instead of from the people--Singh's novel blames Partition on Indian politicians, who create all kinds of conflicts and contradictions among the common people of India in order to promote their self-interest.

This thesis will explore Singh's shift in blame by focusing on three aspects of his portrayal --religion, violence, and economic deprivation with forced migration--that together paint a portrait of greedy and manipulative politicians causing the violence of Partition to force migration. The first chapter on religion shows how Singh portrays religious harmony and how his characters resisted Partition. The second chapter on violence focuses on how ethnic groups are divided and led into conflict by politicians. The final chapter on forced migration examines how Singh portrays the followers of different religions as compelled and motivated to leave all of their wealth and possessions as well as their birthplaces where they have been living for generations with the promise of wealth in the hope of being financially better off. Overall, the thesis suggests that Singh was motivated in this depiction of Partition attempt to heal the still sensitive cultural divisions in India and Pakistan.