| Evacuation from the Malegaon shopping mall after the bomb scare. (PTI)
Sept. 13: Mischief-makers today placed in a busy shopping complex in Malegaon a box contrived to look and smell like a bomb, spreading panic and prompting the town to activate an elaborate security drill.
The box had only a “minuscule” amount of explosives but it had the potential to fan communal flames in the town still on edge after the graveyard carnage five days ago.
“The box contained a minuscule amount of the explosive substance used in firecrackers, mixed with soil and stones and a pair of batteries,” inspector-general of police P.K. Jain said. He described the incident as an attempt to “create communal tension” in the sensitive town.
The discovery of the box forced authorities to recall commandos of the National Security Guards, on their way back to the capital after an assignment to maintain peace in the town in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s blasts.
By then, shoppers had started rushing out of the shopping complex, 20 minutes’ walking distance from the site of last week’s blasts and close to a madarsa that houses 300 children. Many victims of Friday’s blasts were children.
The scent of explosives, kept in two packets inside the box, drove sniffer dogs wild, adding to the panic. A directive to switch off cell phones to avoid accidental detonation also heightened tension.
As the sensitive town has a history of riots, clerics made repeated appeals for calm over the public address system.
Once the commandos returned, they took the red box to a nearby stadium. However, because of the behaviour of the sniffer dogs, the bomb disposal squad let some time pass before giving an all-clear.
The town was on toes again with police chancing upon a cache of arms and arresting four persons in another area of Nashik. An officer later ruled out any link with Friday’s blasts.