A day after bomb explosions at a Muslim graveyard killed 38 people and injured 190 in Malegaon, Hindus and Muslims vowed to maintain communal harmony even as investigations zeroed in on some 'black' explosive substance found near the blast site.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts that came almost two months to the day when bombings in commuter trains in Mumbai, about 300 kms away, killed nearly 200 people.
The town of mainly powerloom workers was normal and curfew was lifted to enable the burying of the dead and let people go about their shopping and other pressing chores.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by Home Minister Shivraj Patil, visited Malegaon, only to hear some sorry tales from the kin of the victims.
As Gandhi was distributing cheques of Rs 100,000 to the kin of the deceased, a victim's relative could not control his emotions and said: "My son was supposed to go to China on some assignment. But he is no more. What is the use of this cheque now?"
"Why has the government failed to provide security to the common citizens?" he asked Gandhi who mumbled condolences.
The well-planned blasts in this Muslim-dominated town, 300 kms northwest of Mumbai, agitated local people but did not disrupt social harmony, community leaders and officials said.
Gandhi, accompanied by Patil, visited the injured at the Farhan Hospital and then the blast sites at the Bada Kabristan (cemetery) and at the Mushaira Chowk near a mosque where hundreds had congregated on the occasion of Shab-e-Baraat, the night of salvation when people pray through the night to seek forgiveness and fast the next day.
Police seized two boxes containing a 'black' substance, reported to be explosive material, from the vicinity of one of the blast sites.
"We have certain leads on the blasts that we are working on. Some substance has been collected from one of the blast sites. But it will be too premature to comment on it till they are verified," Inspector General of Police (Nasik range) PK Jain said.
"The substance is being examined by forensic experts and bomb squads from central and state agencies," Jain, who is heading a special team investigating the blasts, added.
The people, however, have remained calm.
"Whosoever are behind this dastardly, cowardly and senseless act have failed to get the desired affect. Their aim was to whip up communal frenzy, but they have failed," said Sayed Abdul Jabar, an eyewitness. The bombs were placed on bicycles kept outside the Noorani Mosque and the adjacent Bada Kabristan in the heart of Malegaon.
"How can these people (terrorists) possibly attack worshippers on a day like Shab-e-Barat, when Muslims pray for the dead. What was heartening was that the entire population of the town rose to the occasion to come out and tend to the injured. It was a classic example of India's secular fabric," a 54-year-old textile merchant said.
"It is sad that most of the victims were poor fakirs (holy men) from outside the town, who had come to the mosque to offer prayers," Jabar said, his voice choked.
"But the evil intentions of the terrorists will not divide the people of this town. Malegaon has bounced back to normalcy on Saturday as you can see for yourself. We are now praying for the dead," Jabar added.
"People rose to the occasion cutting across all communities. Everyone pitched in to rush the injured and those dead to hospitals. People came to the blast site and the hospitals offering help to the injured and consoling relatives of the victims," said Umesh Shirke, a local journalist.
"Though Malegaon has a history of communal violence, this time it was different. People did not fall prey to the evil designs of the terrorists," Shirke said.
In the absence of good government hospitals, the injured had to be taken to private nursing homes.