When Mano Majra finds out that the ghost train brought corpses, a “brooding silence” falls onto the village. People are frightened. The head constable arrives and releases Malli and his gang in front of the villagers, as instructed. As part of their release, the men are fingerprinted and told to report to the police station twice a week. The villagers watch the police uncuff them, knowing that Juggut Singh and Iqbal Singh (“the stranger”) did not commit the dacoity. They also think that, by arresting Malli and his gang, the police are on the right track. The release confuses them, though. Perhaps some members of the gang did not participate in the robbery, but it is not possible that none of them were involved. The villagers conclude that the police must be certain of the gang’s innocence to release them in Mano Majra, where they committed the murder.
The knowledge that the “ghost train” has brought corpses instills an atmosphere of terror in the village. The villagers rely on the police and their lambardar to understand what is going on, which makes it much easier for the police to lie to them or to instill seeds of doubt. The villagers ultimately trust the police more than their own instinctive sense. They find it hard to believe that the authorities would release Malli and his men in the village in which they committed their offense. The authorities’ indifference to the village’s safety further demonstrates their corruption.
The head constable speaks privately to the lambardar, Banta Singh, who then addresses the crowd, asking if anyone has seen or heard anything about Sultana or his gang. A few villagers have news that the Muslim gang went to Pakistan. The lambardar asks if this occurred before or after Lala Ram Lal was murdered and the villagers agree that the criminals were evacuated afterward. The villagers are puzzled by the question. Then, the head constable asks if any of them saw or talked to “a young Mussulman babu called Mohammed Iqbal who was a member of the Muslim League?” The lambardar is surprised by the question, for, when they met, he remembers Meet Singh and Imam Baksh calling the young man “Iqbal Singh.”
The head constable follows the script that the subinspector gave him. The reaction, as he predicted, is confusion. However, the villagers do agree that Sultana and his gang left after Ram Lal was murdered, which makes it possible that they could have committed the dacoity. The head constable’s claim that Iqbal is a Muslim further perpetuates the notion that the Sikh villagers are threatened by a nefarious Muslim influence—one which seeks to pillage their community and another that seeks to dominate them politically.
Before the head constable leaves with his subordinate constables, Meet Singh goes to him and says that Iqbal Singh is a Sikh. The head constable ignores the priest and busies himself with something that he writes on a yellow piece of paper. He then calls a constable to take the letter that he has just written to the commandant of the Pakistani military unit and to tell the commanding officer that he has come from Mano Majra and that the situation is serious. The commandant must send his trucks and soldiers to evacuate the Muslims at once. The constable clicks his heels and heads out to follow the order.
The head constable ignores Meet Singh, figuring that the old man does not know what he is talking about; Iqbal could have pretended to be a Sikh. Furthermore, the subinspector confirmed that Iqbal is circumcised, which makes it far likelier that Iqbal is a Muslim. Even without this proof, the head constable is likelier to accept the word of his boss, just as he expects his subordinates to accept his knowledge and orders.
The head constable’s visit divides the town. Muslims worry about the rumors of “gentlewomen having their veils taken off” and of being stripped and raped. They start to regard their Sikh neighbors as strangers “with an evil intent.” The Sikhs decide that they can never trust Muslims. They, too, knew of stories of Sikh women who saved themselves from dishonor by jumping into wells. They also know from history that Muslims imprisoned and killed their own fathers and brothers, which meant that they have no sense of loyalty. Then, there is the unsolved the murder of Lala Ram Lal. The stranger (Iqbal)—who has no turban or beard—has been hanging around the village. They have reasons to be angry, they think. So, they decide to be angry with Muslims whom they deem “basely ungrateful.” When the Sikhs are roused, logic does not matter.
The seeds of suspicion planted by the authorities sprouts a weed of distrust that threatens to choke the town, killing the peace that had long existed between the disparate religious groups. The arousal of suspicion reminds people of historical slights, while also calling to mind the rumors about how Sikh women had been threatened with assault at the hands of Muslim men in Pakistan. Iqbal gives no sign of being a fellow Sikh, though he claims to be one. Confused by all that is happening, the Sikh villagers resort to anger. This gives them a reason to avoid thinking through their confusion.
At night, a group of Sikhs gathers around the house of the lambardar. Meet Singh is with them. They believe that God is punishing them for their sins and they wonder what they have done to deserve it. One of the younger men asks why the Muslims, whom they have regarded as brothers, would send a spy. Meet Singh tells the crowd that Iqbal Singh is a Sikh, but the young man does not believe him. To Meet Singh, it does not matter; he knows that the babu was not involved in the dacoity. He adds, more confidently, that Malli has been arrested for the dacoity and explains how Malli plotted to frame Juggut. The priest also questions the head constable’s distracting mention of Sultana. Another youth acknowledges that Meet Singh may have a point.
The Sikhs, devoted to the notion that events happen largely out of human control, believe that God is responsible for their current suffering. Their trust in higher powers, which also includes the legal authorities, makes them vulnerable and dissuades them from taking any action in response to the situation. However, it is the priest, the person who guides this sensibility in favor of faith, who tries to stir the crowd into understanding the lack of logic of the story that the police have told.
The youth then says that something must be done about the Muslims. Meet Singh speaks angrily on the subject, asking the villagers if any Muslim has personally ousted them from their homes or seduced their women. The same youth tells Meet Singh to ask the refugees what the Muslims have done. Meet Singh shifts the focus back to Mano Majra, asking what their own Muslims have done. For the youth, it is enough that they are Muslims. Meet Singh shrugs in futility and the lambardar, Banta Singh, decides that it is up to him to settle the argument. He says that all that matters is what they will do now. The refugees they have taken in so far are a peaceful lot, but that could change, and the local Muslims might be in danger. The village decides that, despite their loyalty to fellow villagers, it might be best if the Muslims leave, though no one knows how to tell them to go.
Again, Meet Singh attempts to appeal to logic, as well as to the villagers’ sense of loyalty. He distinguishes between the Muslims in their community and the ones in Pakistan, trying to help the angry young people understand that one’s religious faith does not determine character. The landowner settles the argument because he is the most powerful member of their community. The villagers justify sending away their Muslim neighbors by saying that they would be ensuring their safety. What really concerns them, however, is their own safety and the possibility of violence spreading to Mano Majra.
The lambardar advises Imam Baksh and the other Muslims to go to a refugee camp until things settle down. He tells them to lock their houses and says that their Sikh neighbors will look after their belongings. The Muslims agree to pack up their bedding and belongings. The lambardar embraces Imam Baksh and starts to cry loudly. His sadness ripples around the house. The Sikh and Muslim villagers fall into each other’s arms and weep like children.
The village reaches a compromise with its Muslims, agreeing to send them away temporarily to a local camp. However, this ostracism, even if it is to ensure everyone’s protection, causes the villagers to feel guilty and sad. Imam Baksh is one of the most respected members of the community, whose absence would be palpable.
Before notifying the other Muslims of what to do, Imam Baksh goes back to his own home. Nooran is already in bed. He wakes her. He tells her to get up and pack because they have to go to Pakistan in the morning. Nooran protests, but her father says that, if they do not go, they will be thrown out. He leaves her sitting in her bed. She thinks about Juggut and hopes that he has been released because she knows that Malli was released. The hope gives her a reason to do something. She goes out into the rain. In the village, she sees people packing. Women sit on the floors in some houses, crying and holding each other, as though someone has died.
Though Imam Baksh is loyal to his community and a respected member of the village, the imam is not averse to thinking that his Sikh neighbors could get swept up in religious fervor and eventually turn on him. Though the evacuation was presented as a temporary solution to avoid an outbreak of violence, the extreme reactions of the villagers suggest that they know that they will never see each other again.
Nooran shakes the door of Juggut’s house, but there is no response. Because the door is bolted from the outside, she unlocks it and goes in. Jugga’s mother is out. Nooran sits and waits, then she hears the sound of footsteps, which stop outside of the door. The voice of an old woman asks who is in the house. Nooran, suddenly scared, does not move. Then, she mumbles, “beybey.” The old woman, Juggut’s mother, steps inside, expecting to see her son. Nooran announces herself and the woman angrily asks why Nooran is in her home at such a late hour. Nooran asks if Jugga has returned, to which the old woman replies that Nooran is the reason why Jugga is in jail and that it is her fault that he is a budmash.
Perhaps to avoid her own sense of guilt that Jugga did not turn out to be much different from his father or his grandfather, Jugga’s mother unconvincingly places blame on Nooran for all that has transpired. Nooran’s use of a term of endearment when addressing Jugga’s mother indicates that she seeks to establish a relationship with the older woman, who seems to worry that Nooran will displace her in her son’s affections, leaving her with no one.
Nooran cries and says that she and her father are leaving tomorrow. Juggut’s mother does not care and asks why Nooran is in her home. Nooran says that Juggut has promised to marry her. Jugga’s mother curses Nooran and scoffs at the idea of a Muslim weaver’s daughter marrying a Sikh peasant. However, she agrees to tell Jugga that Nooran has gone to Pakistan. Nooran then hesitantly tells the old woman that she is two months pregnant. She fears that, if the Muslims in Pakistan find out that she is carrying a child with a Sikh father, they will kill it. She also worries that her father will marry her off or kill her when he finds out.
Juggut’s mother is obedient to social restrictions that forbid the relationship between Nooran, who is of a different religion and comes from a more respectable family, and her son, whom she knows no father would accept as a son-in-law. However, the knowledge that Nooran is pregnant dissolves the importance of these social codes. The pregnancy also ties Nooran’s family to that of Jugga.
Juggut’s mother commands Nooran to stop crying and asks why she did not think about the consequences of her actions when she was doing her “mischief.” The old woman says that she will ensure that Jugga will marry Nooran. A sense of hope settles inside of Nooran, who suddenly feels at home. She hugs Jugga’s mother and goes home to pack. When the younger woman leaves, Jugga’s mother sits on her charpoy and stares into the dark for several hours.
Juggut’s mother’s acceptance of Nooran and the pregnancy indicate that love and family could be the keys to ending the broader sectarian violence. Whereas Juggut’s mother initially resented her son’s relationship with a Muslim, she abandons her hostility in favor of doing what is best for Nooran and the baby.
A Muslim officer tells the lambardar, Banta Singh, that the Mano Majra Muslims are going to Pakistan. The lambardar agrees to look after the Muslims’ houses while they are gone, but he refuses to look after their other property. The Muslim officer is initially skeptical about the lambardar’s talk of brotherhood, but he agrees that it is up to him, the Sikh officer, and his fellow villagers to decide how they will handle the remaining property.
The officer seems to suspect that the lambardar either does not care very much about the Muslims’ property or he does not trust the other Sikhs to look after it properly. He does not understand that the Sikhs do not want to inspire temptation or covetousness. To avoid this, the lambardar thinks it best that no one take charge of the Muslims’ property.
Suddenly, Malli and his five companions appear in the crowd. They are accompanied by a few refugees who are staying at the temple. Malli tells the Sikh officer that he will look after the property. The Sikh officer speaks about it with the Muslim officer, who agrees to this plan. The villagers protest, but the Muslim officer tells them to “shut up.” The commotion dies down and, once again, the Muslim officer orders the Muslims to get into the trucks with as much luggage as they can hold in their hands. The Sikh officer says that he has arranged with Malli and his companions to look after the departing Muslims’ cattle, cart, and houses. The Mano Majra Sikhs and Muslims helplessly watch as the officers make this arrangement.
In a cruel twist of irony, the Muslims’ property is left with the most dishonorable and villainous character in the novel. The officers’ decision, made despite the protests of the villagers who are aware of Malli’s reputation, reveal the extent of the indifference among those in power toward the departing Muslims. Even the Muslim officer is less concerned with ensuring that the property is protected than he is with getting the matter sorted as quickly as possible.
The truck engines start. The Pathan soldiers round up the Muslims, and the Muslim officer drives his jeep around the convoy to ensure that everything is in order. The villagers can only shout their “goodbyes.” The Muslim officer then mechanically shakes hands with his Sikh colleague and departs. The jeep takes its place at the front of the convoy and the officer shouts “Pakistan!” His soldiers answer, in unison, “Forever!” The Sikhs watch the convoy, which is moving toward Chundunnugger, until it is out of sight. The Sikh officer then summons the lambardar. Banta Singh, arrives, accompanied by all the Mano Majra villagers. The Sikh officer says that anyone who interferes with Malli’s role as custodian of the Muslims’ property will be shot. Malli’s gang and the refugees then unyoke the steers, loot the carts, and drive the cows and buffalo away.
Predictably, Malli and his gang and use their newfound position as an opportunity to rob the departing Muslims. However, dishonorable as their actions are, they ultimately do not matter. The Muslims will never return—a fact that is confirmed by the Muslim officers’ shout that the convoy is departing forever for Pakistan, contrary to everyone being told that the Muslims would only be going to a refugee camp until tensions cooled. The dishonesty that impacts the Muslims is not limited to criminals like Malli, it is also rife throughout the bureaucracy, which is not forthcoming with the villagers.