Modi anguished over Christian school attack

New Delhi


Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday expressed his "deep concern" and "anguish" over rising crime in the national capital as he summoned Delhi police commissioner B.S. Bassi following the ransacking of a Christian school here.

It was the sixth such incident targetting Christian institutions in the last two months -- with the other cases involving vandalism.

"The prime minister expressed his deep concern and anguish to Bassi over increasing incidents in the capital in which churches and Christian institutions have been targeted," a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said.

Modi asked Bassi to "speedily investigate the recent incidents of vandalism and ensure that the guilty are brought to book", it added.

The prime minister also directed union Home Secretary L.C. Goyal to pay special attention to the rising incidents of crime and vandalism in the city.

Employees of Holy Child Auxilium School in south Delhi's Vasant Vihar area have told police that a few CCTV cameras in the premises were damaged, the principal's office was ransacked and Rs.8,000 stolen from a donation box.

The incident was condemned by the Aam Aadmi Party and Bharatiya Janata Party.

Union Human Resource Minister Smriti Irani, who has been a student of the school, visited the school following the incident.

Delhi chief minister-designate Arvind Kejriwal said such incidents will not be tolerated.

Modi asked the home secretary to pay special attention "to the rising incidents of crime, and vandalism, and work towards ensuring safety and security of women in the capital".

Bassi later told media that Friday's incident was related to theft, not desecration.

"Our initial inquiry suggests it is not a case of desecration. It was a case of theft as Rs.8,000 was stolen from a donation box," he said.

Bassi said the culprits damaged some CCTV cameras in the premises of the school but religious articles were not disturbed.

"The police have increased security around churches in Delhi. The police are taking this case with utter seriousness and the culprits will be brought to book," Bassi said.

Police officials told IANS that two people were seen in the CCTV footage. The culprits entered the school premises around 3.30 a.m. and left by 5.30 a.m.

The school's principal Sister Lucy John said six CCTV cameras in the corridor were damaged, cupboards were ransacked and the two intruders took away money.

Set up in 1970, the school is run by the Salesian Sisters. The English-medium school, meant primarily for Christian girls, also has students from other communities and religions.

Leaders of the Christian community blamed some members of a group of intentionally targeting the community.

Delhi Catholic Archdiocese spokesperson Father Savarimuthu Sankar claimed that the latest incident appeared to be aimed at instilling fear among the Christian community.

"We see a clear pattern in all the attacks. Earlier, we thought that these attacks have a connection with the Delhi election," said Sankar.

"Now it is clear that this is the handiwork of some fundamentalist group whose motive is to instil fear among the Christian community."

Father Mathew Koyickal of the school told IANS: "The intention of the attackers is to unnerve the Christian community."

"The school was shut Friday following the incident. The earlier cases of vandalism of churches were reported from Vasant Kunj, Rohini, Jasola, Dilshad Garden and Vikaspuri."

Bassi, however, said the Vikaspuri incident had been solved, the incident in Rohini involved an electric short-circuit and the other cases were being probed. - IANS