For 19 years, the Catholic school in the town of Ranaghat in West Bengal state had been teaching children of workers at a nearby jute factory without incident. But three weeks ago, the school received death threats and demands for money in anonymous phone calls just days after the nuns had an altercation with the father of a boy who was expelled.

Police are investigating if there was a link between the expulsion of the boy, the threats and Friday night's attack, when a group of ten men broke into the school offices before heading to the nuns' quarters.

"This is a well-planned attack and conspiracy cannot be ruled out," said a police officer in Ranaghat contacted by telephone, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the case. He said it was not yet clear if the three incidents were linked and that police were also investigating the religious angle.
               
The assault also marks a disturbing convergence of two social currents in contemporary Indian, violence against women and attacks against minority religions.                

A rape is reported on average every 21 minutes in India, and acid attacks, domestic violence and molestation against women are common.

About a fifth of India's 1.27 billion people identify themselves as belonging to faiths other than Hinduism. Muslims make up the largest minority, about 14 percent of the population, while Christians comprise about 2.5 percent.

In the Ranaghat attack, the men roamed around the school and damaged a bust of Jesus Christ in a chapel before breaking into the nuns' quarters. Two attackers grabbed the 75-year-old nun who was in charge of the school's finances and demanded the keys to a cupboard, the officer said, citing a report given by another nun who was an eyewitness.

When she refused, she was raped by one man, the officer said. Other nuns were threatened with similar consequences unless they handed over gold chains and cash. In total the men made off with more than 1 million rupees.

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