Muslims in the western state of Gujarat, still reeling from India's worst religious violence in almost a decade, must now grapple with the threat of economic boycott by majority Hindus.

Though no hardline Hindu group has made a formal call yet, a silent campaign through pamphlets urging Hindus to boycott goods from Muslim-owned shops has gathered steam since a mob burnt alive 58 Hindu activists in a train on February 27.

The circulars also urge Hindus not to patronise Muslim restaurants, work in Muslim offices, hire Muslims or see films starring Muslim actors.

One pamphlet says the boycott will "break the backbone" of Muslims. "A strict boycott will throttle these elements. It will break their backbone. Then it will be difficult for them to live in any corner of this country," it says.

But many people in the state, including business groups and state officials, believe the campaign would not gain support and they hope that peace could be quickly restored.

Hardline Hindus say they have suffered for too long due to the minority appeasement policies of past governments including subsidies for the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah and the only way to reassert their rights is to weaken Muslims financially.

"This is the result of a national Hindu awakening and no organisation is behind it," Haresh Bhatt, vice-president of the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad's (VHP) Gujarat unit, said.

"I'm in complete agreement with whatever is propagated through them," he told Reuters. But Muslims say the campaign is led by the VHP aimed at deepening mistrust between the two communities, at its lowest ebb since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 sparked massive riots that left about one million dead.

"It's the handiwork of the VHP and a clever strategy to deepen the religious divide," said Mufti Shabbir Ahmed Siddiqui, chief cleric at the biggest mosque in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's main city. "Who can stop them? They are trying to deepen the divide in society," Siddiqui added.

Muslims, who form about 10 per cent of Gujarat's 50 million population, say they have yet to feel the pinch of the boycott call as most Muslim businesses are still closed after the riots.

"It is wrong to perceive it as a loss to Muslims. It will be a national loss and the state's economy will suffer," said Mehbub Topiwala, a hosiery shopowner in Ahmedabad.

Many people say they are not concerned about the boycott and want peace restored. "I don't see a shopkeeper's religion before buying anything. This talk is pushed by people who want to whip up religious animosity," said Deepak Shah, a Hindu who works in a private firm.

Shantilal Ratan, a rickshaw driver, agrees. "All I want to see is the return of peace. I have not been able to go home daily because of the night curfew and fear of being attacked."

Ahmedabad, which bore the brunt of the religious violence, and many parts of Gujarat remain tense with sporadic incidents of rioting and arson being reported. A Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) official said the boycott call would have little impact.

"No GCCI member has taken it too seriously. In today's world of fierce competition sidelining of a particular community for frivolous reasons such as this will not hold," he said.

He said it was difficult to estimate the share of the Muslim community's contribution to Gujarat's economy but they had a substantial presence in the transportation and hotel industry.

Government officials said they were taking steps to deal with the problem. "We have directed local peace committees to take steps to rebuild the trust and comradeship that existed between the communities," Ashok Narayan, a home ministry official, said.