Indian police issue lookout notice against Hindu helpline worker for assaulting pastor

People take part in a religion conversion ceremony from Christianity to Hinduism at Hasayan town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014. Picture taken August 29, 2014. | Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Authorities in the Indian state of Kerala are on the lookout for a Hindu helpline worker who was seen in a video assaulting a Christian pastor.

According to News 18, the police registered a case against the helpline worker, identified only in reports as Gopinathan, after he was seen in the video threatening and manhandling Pastor Abraham Thomas.

The incident reportedly took place on June 6 in the Valiya Panikkan Thuruth area, where Thomas and two others were distributing pamphlets.

Gopinathan and an unidentified person reportedly approached the small group and accused them of trying to convert Hindus.

In the video, Gopinathan reportedly told the pastor and his companions to tear the pamphlets that they were distributing. He had also warned Thomas that he was in a "Hindu-dominant area."

The police said that no formal complaint has been registered against Gopinathan, but they have decided to file a case against the assailants after recording the statement of Thomas.

The assailants have been charged with promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, wrongful restraint, criminal intimidation and voluntarily causing hurt.

Accusations of forced conversions have been common in India, where 10 states have enacted anti-conversion laws.

In May, two pastors were reportedly arrested in Uttar Pradesh after "some villagers were instigated to falsely accuse them of forced conversions."

Sajan K. George, president of Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that villagers made the allegations against the pastors on the "basis of mere suspicion," prompting the police to take them to the station, where they were accused of disturbing the peace.

The Christian leader stressed that the Constitution "consecrates the rights [of all confessions] and allows people to announce their faith without alluring or compelling anyone [else]."

He insisted that the pastors were not disturbing the peace, but they were taken into custody because of the commotion caused by the villagers.

According to Morning Star News, anti-conversion laws are currently in effect in Orissa (now Odisha), Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand. The latest state to pass a similar law was Uttarakhand after Gov. Krishna Kant Paul signed the legislation in April. Tamil Nadu had approved a similar law in 2002, but it was repealed in 2004.

Christians have expressed concern that the anti-conversion law that was approved in Uttarakhand could be used against minorities.

"This could be misused against minorities," Dr. Satish John, vice president of the Minority Commission of Uttarakhand, told Morning Star News. "We must safeguard ourselves by approaching the Minority Commission if discrepancy is noticed in any individual case. The commission is established to make sure that such laws are not abused," he added.