Agra (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Akhil Bharitiya Vaishya Ekta Parishad (ABVEP), a committee of vaishyas (mostly traders by caste), wants to ban teenage girls and young women - especially Hindus - from using mobile phones, to save them from the danger of the love jihad.
The term love jihad refers alleged forced conversions by Muslims of Hindu and Christian women through offers of marriage in exchange of compulsory conversion to Islam.
"Such things (mobiles, internet) lead young minds to fall in the 'love jihad' trap," said ABEVP national president Sumant Gupta. "We are saddened and alarmed by the rising numbers of such cases in the state, especially when Vaishya girls are involved. We have no option but to take precautions."
In order to promote its cause, the association will send out groups of young people and women across the state to explain to teenagers the "dangers" they run.
"We will convince them politely, with love. There will be no pressure or force," Gupta said.
The group's statements have sparked different local reactions. For Zishan Ahmed, a post-graduate student at Baba Saheb Bheemrao Ambedkar University, reacted with dismay. "These diktats are bewildering and humiliating for youngsters of both communities," he said.
For many, this proposal is a sign of the recent polarisation in Uttar Pradesh, in particular since the elections last May.
A report that a young woman was gang-raped and forcibly converted to Islam brought 'love jihad' into national discourse, with the ultra-nationalist Hindu-based Bharatiya Janata Party BJP (BJP) alleging that the Uttar Pradesh state government led by Samajwadi Party was protecting Muslims responsible for such crimes against Hindu girls.
Surendra Sharma, a city-based social activist, was not too pleased either. "The level of distrust between the two communities is more and more evident. This is happening because those who polarized people before the Lok Sabha elections now enjoy ministerial posts in state and Union cabinets," he said.
"For Hindu nationalists the idea that a Hindu woman can fall in love with a Muslim, who is by definition 'the other', the enemy, is simply unacceptable," some analysts explained. "A woman's body and choices fall under patriarchal control."
In the case of Vaishyas, this starts with mobile phones.