An influential Kashmiri Muslim cleric has issued a fatwa against using money from the Indian army to renovate mosques and shrines, saying only Muslims could carry out such work at holy places.
The army says it spent about 5.2 million rupees in the past three years to renovate mosques and Muslim shrines across Kashmir, as part of its campaign to win the "hearts and minds" of the people in India's only Muslim-majority state.
"The Muslim Shariat law does not allow any person or people other than Muslims to do such acts," Mufti Mohammad Bashir-ud-Din said late on Tuesday.
He said if the fatwa was ignored it would be treated as "undue interference in our religious affairs".
Under a programme named "Sadbhavna", or goodwill, the Indian army has also built schools and bus stations in Kashmir where more than 42,000 people have been killed since a revolt against New Delhi's rule broke out in 1989.
Human rights groups put the toll at about 60,000 dead or missing.
The Mufti said security forces had caused the "maximum injury" to Kashmir's Muslims in the last two decades, and called their attempts to repair and renovate Islamic holy sites a conspiracy that people should resist with "iron hands".
Kashmir's hardline separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, called for peaceful protests on Friday against what he called the Indian army's intervention in religious affairs.
An Indian army spokesman denied the charge and said the renovation of mosques and shrines was done only after a request from the people of Kashmir.
"If the people don't want our help there's no force from our side," Lieutenant-Colonel AK Mathur said.
State governor S.K. Sinha said, "India's secular credentials are well established the world over and discordant notes of secessionist voices on religious lines are not in consonance with our pluralistic ethos".