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India criticises UN experts who voiced concern over Kashmir

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has criticised UN rights experts for voicing concerns about constitutional changes made in the Muslim-majority territory of Kashmir, where militants have been fighting for independence for three decades.

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A statement released by the two special rapporteurs on minority issues and freedom of religion or belief on Thursday called into question their neutrality and objectivity, Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said.

In their statement, the special rapporteurs said a decision by the Indian government last year to end the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir state and enact new laws could curtail the political participation of Muslims.

Muslims and other minority groups also stood to lose on issues such as employment and land ownership, they said.

Srivastava said Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India and the changes made in its status were enacted by parliament. One of the changes was that laws in force in the rest of India would apply to the people of Kashmir, allowing them the same legal rights as the rest of India, he said.

“This press release calls into question the larger principles of objectivity and neutrality that the SRs (special rapporteurs) are mandated by the Human Rights Council to adhere to,” Srivastava said in a statement late on Thursday night.

He said the special rapporteurs’ statement was released as India hosted international diplomats in Kashmir. Officials said the visit was intended to showcase efforts to restore normalcy a year after the region was stripped of its special status.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said it revoked Kashmir’s special status to try to fully integrate the region with the rest of India and open it up for faster economic growth.

In new violence in Kashmir on Friday, militants killed three policemen in two separate attacks in the main city of Srinagar, hours after security forces killed three militants in a raid in a village south of Kashmir, police chief Vijay Kumar said.

More than 50,000 people have been killed in the uprising against New Delhi’s rule in Kashmir that began in 1989, according to the government’s toll. Others put the toll at over 100,000.

Pakistan disputes Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and has twice gone to war with India over the territory.

Additional reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Timothy Heritage