A senior Indian government minister has urged Hindu and Muslim religious leaders to holds talks on "love jihad" where Muslim boys are said to seduce and elope with Hindu girls to convert them to Islam.
Uma Bharti of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that talks are important to protect the welfare of both Muslim and Hindu youth, The Telegraph reported on September 2.
"There is a need to ensure that the future of boys and girls of either community is not jeopardized in any way," said Bharti, who is water affairs minister.
Riots broke out last year pitching Muslim and Hindu teenagers against each other. More than 60 people were killed in the violence.
The "love jihad," also called Romeo jihad, reportedly dates back to 2009.
It is said to occur in Kerala and Mangalore the coastal Karnataka region.
The fundamentalist Muslim organization, Popular Front of India, and the Campus Front have been accused of promoting this activity but both deny such a campaign.
Kerala Catholic Bishops Council confirmed that up to 4,500 girls in Kerala have been targeted, whereas Hindu Janajagruti Samiti claimed that 30,000 girls have been converted in Karnataka alone.
Shaheed Siddiqui, a senior Muslim community leader in Uttar Pradesh dismissed Uma Bharti's statements accusing that the minister of using the issue to "provoke religious unrest."
"It is not for religious leaders to decide if love jihad exists," he said. "How does she [Ms. Bharti] come into the picture? She is trying to put fuel on the fire."
In December 2011, Karnataka legislative assembly member Mallika Prasad of the Hindu nationalist BJP expressed the need to address the issue as 69 of 84 Hindu girls who had gone missing that year.
He said "they'd been lured by Muslim youths who professed love."