Black flags hung from trees, walls and lamp posts, people covered their faces with black cloth, and the air was heavy with the wailing of relatives of victims of Friday's Lalgarh firing as railway minister Mamataa Banerjee marched in Midnapore town with the bodies of those killed.
Thousands of people wearing black badges, thronged the college ground in the town to pay their last respects to the villagers who died in a clash triggered by assailants allegedly backed by West Bengal's ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and locals in Netai village, about three km from this Maoist hub of West Midnapore district.
At least seven people were shot dead and 17 wounded in the clashes amid allegations that the assailants were sheltered in armed camps set up by the CPI-M.
Early Saturday, Banerjee visited Netai and spoke to the relatives of the dead and wounded, who narrated harrowing tales of Friday's gruesome incident that has sent shockwaves throughout the state.
With fear stalking Netai, Banerjee called up state Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh and requested him to beef up security to instil confidence in the minds of the villagers and ensure their safety in case of any further attacks.
Banerjee had Friday said she would address people at the Ramakrishna Vidyalaya ground in Lalgarh, but cancelled the programme. Trinamool sources claimed the decision was taken for security reasons.
Later, Banerjee went to the district headquarters, Midnapore town to pay her respects to the dead and head the rally that started from Midnapore College ground and passed through several thoroughfares of the town to terminate at Battala Chawk. Banerjee, however, was present at the rally for a short while and left for Howrah to address a meeting.
She was earlier slated to address a meeting at Midnapore college ground, but Trinamool Youth Congress chief Subhendu Adhikari said that had to be cancelled due to time constraints. "It took time to bring the bodies to Midnapore. And our leader was getting late for her scheduled rally in the evening in neighbouring Howrah district," he said.
A large posse of policemen, most of them wearing helmets and riot gear, arrived at the meeting spot Saturday morning to ensure fool-proof security.
However, the state's ruling Marxists took a dig at Banerjee saying she could not arrange enough people to hold the meeting at Midnapore town.
"Trinamool Congress couldn't arrange enough people to conduct a rally. That's why they have cancelled the program," said Shyamal Chakroborty, CPI-M central committee member.
The CPI-M also brought out two processions - one at Lalgarh and the other at Midnapore town.