It is the summer of 1947. But Partition does not mean much to the Sikhs and Muslims of Mano Majra, a village on the border of India and Pakistan. Then, a local money-lender is murdered, and suspicion falls upon Juggut Singh, the village gangster who is in love with a Muslim girl. When a train...
Juggut Singh: Uneducated, towering, muscular villager known for gang problems and frequent visits to the prisons on account of trouble with the police. Is in love with the daughter of the Imam of the village of Mano Majra. The other, good side of his personality comes to light only in the end.
Hukum Chand: A regional magistrate who is a morally conflicted man. He knows what he is doing is bad but is not able to correct his actions. He is like any other person who sees wrong things happening around him but does little to improve things other than just thinking about them.
Iqbal: A supposed social worker, it is implied that Iqbal is a member of the Communist Party, and has come to the border village for spreading propaganda. It is never determined whether he is a Sikh or a Muslim, even when he is arrested by the police on suspicions of being a League member. He is ambitious to be in the top ranks of the party, and is another one of the people who talk endlessly about change and right and wrong, but are never able to actually take any action to bring about that change. That said, he is a perceptive character, and has a lot to say about the problems and solutions for the newly independent India.
The Sub-Inspector: Never mentioned by name, the sub-inspector is mentioned as an example of the police system of India - endlessly on the coattails of authority, waiting for directions, even when they are completely aware of the repercussions of any and all actions done by them. It must be said that this particular officer of the law is an incredibly competent one, and does manage to drops enough hints to the magistrate in the end, in order to let him make the decision which eventually save the refugees fleeing by the train to pakistan.
Meet Singh: The quintessential village priest, he is a man of low intelligence but a lot of faith in the guru's words. He follows the spirit of the edicts laid down by the ten gurus, and tries to make others see that spirit too, even though he doesn't always succeed.
Imam Baksh: The Imam of the village mosque, he is the father of Nooran, the love interest of Juggut Singh. He is a wise man, who has always been respected in the village as one of its wisest people. He is the one who decides, upon advice from Meet Singh and other sikhs, to leave the village for the refugee camp, and from there to Pakistan.
Nooran: The daughter of the Imam and the love interest of Juggut Singh. She is carrying Juggut's child when she leaves the village.
Malli and his gang: The gang who actually commit the robbery and murder for which Juggut Singh is accused. They are also the ones who loot the houses of the village's muslims - with government permission - after they have left for the refugee camp. Quintessential hotheads and bandits.
“Take religion. For the Hindu, it means little besides caste and cow-protection. For the Muslim, circumcision and kosher meat. For the Christian, Hinduism with a sola topee. For the Parsi, fire worship and feeding vultures. Ethics, which should be the kernel of a religious code, has been carefully removed.”
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