- Kimberly Okesalako
Identities are formed on the basis of caste and religion. Each individual is permanently based on where they are from rather on what kind of personality that they have. A person can be born as a Muslim and raised in a Christian or Hindu community, and yet, the fact that they are Muslims is what will be seen by most people around over anything else. The partition of India started out as a mutual agreement and yet for some reason, as the story passes down through generations, we have come to view it and learn about it from a different perspective. We read about how the Hindus and Muslims work together to obtain their independence from the British rule. They stood together and formed an identity of being an Indian.
However, two days after the partition was established, Muslims were now being identified on the basis of their religion rather than that of their nationality. This supports the idea that we are identified on the basis of our nationality which is further divided into caste and religion. However, the concept of caste and religion is something that becomes engraved into the very roots of our system and our identities is established from the rules and norms that surround both these two concepts. The movie, “A Train to Pakistan”, works around the fact that the partition not only affected the people who lived within the city, especially families that had to uproot their entire families and move, but also the villages that bordered both India and Pakistan. The train that travelled between both the nation carried a lot of carnage-causing the other side to retaliate without any thought. We see how the rural places identified themselves based on the country from which they originated and forms an idea of unity amongst the people, be it Sikhs, Muslims or Hindus.
Now we can say that the idea of identity becomes blurred as people aim to recognise themselves as well as others based on their own survival. A clear depiction of this can be seen when Iqbal Singh, an effeminate social worker was accused of the death of the Hindu zamindar refused to identify himself as a Sikh or a Muslim. Throughout the movie, we observe as how, Iqbal, who is an educated man is more talk and less action, whereas Jaggat Singh, a Sikh who is portrayed as the towns dacoit goes to certain extremes to protect what he holds dear. There is a clear power play as the poor man appears to have nothing to lose as when compared to the rich man.
Another individual is the village’s magistrate, who chooses a Muslim girl to be his companion for several nights. As the girl would have been the same age as his daughter if she were alive, he took a special shining to her. However, one can’t ignore the fact that she is Muslim as at the end of the movie, he sends her away to avoid the wrath of the people. Again another power play between the rich and the poor as Jaggat risked his life to ensure that his Muslim lover was able to live hers. The fact that the train only arrived during the late evening can suggest an awakening of some kind as it installs a sense of belongingness with the individuals on the train and those that lived in the village. It showed that the partition was not as clean cut as it was portrayed to be able for a long time there were bloodshed and hatred between the two nations.
The movie allows us to see that not only the urban places are capable of getting affected and in reality; it is the rural villages that hold a higher amount of risks. Not only are they unable to help themselves, but the hierarchy of religion is so far embedded that the police force refused to assist the Muslims that were leaving on the train back to Pakistan well aware that there was a plan to kill them. The sense of security is demolished as the people who are supposed to protect the villagers in their time of travel are forced to tread the path to their death. The irony here is the fact that the people on the train were saved by Jaggat Singh, a Sikh man who made sure that the people on board the train made it to safety even though it cost him his life. A life that was taken by his fellow men of the same religion.
I guess the question was on the identities right? So look at how the idea of partition has formed and deformed identities, how the people had unlearned the learnt and circumscribe to the new beliefs. Take a few incidents and characters and see how they look at the idea of religion and the new nation that is formed.