Indian police probe threats to burn down Christian school

KOLKATA (AFP) - Police in eastern India said Wednesday they are investigating letters found at a Catholic school which threaten to burn it down, renewing fears about the safety of the Christian minority.

Police have stepped up security at St. Capitaneo School in West Bengal state after the discovery of the five letters, threatening arson unless it was closed and its 13 nuns removed from the area.

"We are trying to trace the source of the letters. It's too early to comment on the authenticity of the letters but we are taking no chances," district police chief Celling Simik Lepcha told AFP.

The incident comes just over a week after an elderly nun was raped during a robbery at a separate convent school in the same state, sparking anger and protests.

Staff alerted police on Sunday to the letters which were found in the compound of the school's hostel, said West Bengal police Inspector General Anuj Sharma.

The letters, written in Hindi, have sparked fear among staff and the wider Christian community, said Father Dominic Gomes, spokesman for the Kolkata Archdiocese.

"The letters were tossed inside by unknown people and police are trying to identify them. They have assured us foolproof security at the school," he said.

"We are concerned over the safety and security of our institutions and people... there is fear in the minds of the community."

The incident comes in the wake of a series of attacks on churches or Catholic schools, and despite a pledge by Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure the safety of religious minorities.

The school near the border with Bhutan has around 1,700 students, mostly from poor tribal groups.

Police have come under fire for a lack of arrests over the attack on the nun, aged in her 70s, whose convent was also ransacked by the gang of robbers.

India is 80 percent Hindu while Muslims make up 13.4 percent of the 1.2 billion population. Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and other religions account for the rest.