India has relesead 11 prisoners sentenced to life for raping pregnant Muslim woman during riots in 2002, drawing condemnation from the victim's widower, lawyers and politicians.

The men were convicted in early 2008 and released from prison in Panchmahalsa in the western state of Gujarat on Monday as India celebrated the 75th anniversary of the end of British rule.

Violence in Gujarat, one of the worst sectarian riots in India, resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. Gujarat was then led by the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, as Chief Minister, and is still ruled by its Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

A senior official told Reuters that the county jail's advisory committee recommended release after reviewing the time the 11 inmates spent in jail and their good behavior. The fact is that they spent about 15 years in prison and had the right to pardon, he said.

Indian laws allow convicts to seek release after 14 years in prison.

The victim's widower said he was disappointed because the riot also killed many family members.

Opposition politicians and lawyers said the release runs counter to the government's stated policy of supporting women in a country notorious for violence against them.