The film is set in mid-to-late 1980s in the Indian state of Punjab, which has been wracked by a violent insurgency in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the subsequent 1984 Anti-Sikh riots. The story is relayed by a series of flashbacks. Jaswant Singh Randhawa (Raj Zutshi) and his sister Veerendar "Veeran" (Tabu) live with their elderly mother Biji in a Punjab village. Kripal Singh (Chandrachur Singh) is Jaswant's childhood friend and Veeran's fiance, and lives close by with his grandfather. Their peaceful lives are interrupted by police led by Assistant Commissioner of Police Khurana and Inspector Vohra, who were searching for a Jimmy, who allegedly attempted to murder Kedar Nath, a member of the Indian Parliament. Jaswant mockingly leads the police to his dog, who was named Jimmy. Angered by his insolence, Khurana and Vohra take Jaswant for questioning, but he fails to return for days. Kripal struggles to locate Jaswant, visiting various police stations in the area, while taking care of Jaswant's family. When Jaswant finally returns after 15 days, he has been badly beaten up by police, which enrages Kripal. Unable to obtain help by any legal means to fight police brutality, Kripal sets off to locate his cousin Jeetay, who had ties with militant groups. Unable to locate Jeetay, Kripal instead encounters a man named Sanathan (Om Puri), who he observes planting a time bomb on a bus. Running into him again at a dhabha, Kripal asks a wary Sanathan to listen to him for maybe he could help him. Sanathan agrees to let Kripal travel with him on his truck, being driven by the "Commander" (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) and carrying sacks of native-made bombs and two militants. Upon arriving at their hideout, Kripal explains his predicament and finds out that Jeetay was killed by the Commander himself for being a police informer.