Leading human rights groups have urged the Indian National Human Rights Commission to take urgent steps to safeguard the rights of Christians in the western state of Rajasthan.

"The rights of the [Christian] community have been violated. They have been forced to live in terror," said Kavita Srivastava, general secretary of the Rajasthan unit of People's Union for Civil Liberties, which has petitioned India's human rights commission on behalf of the Christian community. 

The civil liberties union, India's oldest and largest human rights organization, and a dozen other rights groups released a report last week on the plight of Christians in the Ajmer district of the state, said Srivastava.

Tensions began when a Catholic priest was accused of molesting a Christian boy at St Martin School at Bhawani Kheda, the report said. Some Hindu groups used the alleged incident to run a "hate campaign" against the state's tiny Christian community, according to the report.

The accusation against the priest should have been treated like any other criminal allegations, Srivastava said, but was instead "communalized."

"The event was used to terrorize the local Christian population, tarnish the image of the institutions run by them for decades and also get the re-conversions carried out," said Srivastava, referring to pressure applied to Christian families to return to the Hindu fold.

Fundamentalists led a Hindu family boycott, withdrawing 231 students from the Catholic school and forcibly locking up a hostel. Seventy-five poor students staying in the student housing were unable to enter.

Later, leaders of the Hindu fundamentalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) visited the area and converted dozens of Christian families back to Hinduism, ...

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