“The Dog of Tithwal” begins with Indian and Pakistani soldiers entrenched in their positions along the nations’ border in a mountainous area. Neither side has the advantage in the war; no air forces are involved, and heavy artillery is not in their armaments. It is more a standoff than a battle. The peace of the mountains pervades in spite of the tension. Flowers are in bloom, birds are singing, and clouds are scudding lazily through the skies. Manto compares nature to a symphony that plays beautifully and the men with their guns to discordant notes.
The action begins in the Indian camp, with Jamadar Harnam Singh on night watch. At two o’clock, he wakes Ganda Singh to take over the watch and lies down to sing a romantic song about a pair of shoes with stars on them. Banta Singh joins in with a song about love and tragedy. The soldiers feel sadness creeping over them; perhaps they are reminded that life should be about love rather than about war.
The barking of a dog interrupts this pensive scene. Banta Singh finds the dog in the bushes and announces that his name is Jhun Jhun. The soldiers are in a good humor and pleased to see the dog, until Harnam Singh decides that the dog cannot eat if it is a Pakistani dog. The other soldiers think he is joking, but he then declares that all Pakistanis will be shot, even Pakistani dogs. The dog recognizes something in his tone and reacts with fear, which seems to please Harnam Singh. Another soldier responds by leading the men in a declaration of “India Zindabad!” (an expression of nationalistic fervor).
Banta Singh makes a sign with the dog’s name on it, along with the information that it is an Indian dog, and hangs it around the dog’s neck.
The next morning the dog appears in the Pakistani camp. It turns out that it had spent a few days with the Pakistani soldiers before it went to the Indian camp. Like the Indian soldiers, the Pakistanis are tired of the war that has been dragging on for months. As Subedar Himmat Khan twirls his moustache and studies a map of the Tithwal sector of India, Bashir begins to sing a song about where a lover spent the night.
When the dog appears, Subedar Himmat Khan turns the lines of the song into an accusation against Jhun Jhun. “Where did you spend the night?” he screams. Bashir takes this as a joke and sings his song to the dog, but Subedar Himmat Khan throws a pebble at Jhun Jhun.
Bashir discovers the sign around the dog’s neck. The soldiers ponder the sign to see if it could be in code; Subedar Himmat Khan reports the incident to his platoon commander, who ignores the report because he finds it meaningless. While the commander is correct that the report is not of tactical significance, it is implied that his failure to investigate indicates a lack of discipline in the ranks. The soldiers are bored and seem to feel that their presence here is meaningless.
The Pakistani soldiers rename Jhun Jhun and put a sign around his neck saying that he is Shun Shun, a Pakistani dog. Subedar Himmat Khan then sends Jhun Jhun back to his “family,” urging him to take the message to the enemy. The dog trots off, and Subedar Himmat Khan fires in the air. Feeling bored, he decides to fire at the Indians. For half an hour, the two sides exchange fire, after which Subedar Himmat Khan orders a halt. As he combs his hair, he wonders where the dog has gone.
When Jhun Jhun comes around the hill where the Pakistani are entrenched, it seems to infuriate Subedar Himmat Khan. He shoots at the dog, hitting some stones. Jhun Jhun continues to run toward him, and Subedar Himmat Khan continues to shoot at the dog. Meanwhile, Harnam Singh fires. The two opposing soldiers enjoy scaring the terrified dog until Harnam Singh wounds the dog.
Still, Subedar Himmat Khan will not let Jhun Jhun return to the Pakistani camp. Khan tells the dog it is his duty to continue going toward the enemy camp. It is clear that, in Subedar Himmat Khan’s mind, fanaticism has overcome any rationality.
When the wounded dog drags himself toward Harnam Singh, Jamadar Harnam Singh shoots and kills him. While the Pakistani Subedar Himmat Khan compares the killing to martyrdom, Harnam Singh says that Jhun Jhun “died a dog’s death.”
Carol Ullmann (Editor) Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 15, Saadat Hasan Manto, Published by Gale, 2002.