SRINAGAR, India Dec 2 A human rights group in Kashmir said on Wednesday it had discovered some 1,700 unmarked graves linked to the region's separatist conflict and called on authorities to launch an investigation.
The graves were found in cemeteries in 55 villages close to the Line of Control, the military line dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan, according to the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian Administered Kashmir (IPTK).
"The graveyards investigated by IPTK entomb bodies of those murdered in encounter and fake encounter killings between 1990-2009," Angana P. Chatterji, IPTK's convener, said at a news conference, referring to the period of a separatist insurgency.
Nearly 90 percent of the graves were unmarked, she said.
Police dismissed the claims of the group, which is an independent rights organisation operating in the Jammu and Kashmir state.
"We will investigate this report, but most of the bodies were likely those of Pakistan militants killed in encounters and are always buried as unidentified," a police official, who asked not be identified, told Reuters.
Last year, the same rights group, said they had discovered nearly 1,000 unmarked graves in 18 villages in the same area.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Kashmir since a revolt against New Delhi's rule began in 1989.
International human rights groups, which put the toll at about 70,000 dead or missing, have in the past asked Indian authorities to investigate whether unmarked graves hold bodies of civilians who have disappeared as Indian troops fight militants.
Indian security forces in the troubled region have been accused of killing civilians in staged gun battles and passing them off as separatist militants to earn rewards and promotions.
(Reporting By Sheikh Mushtaq; Editing by Rina Chandran and Paul de Bendern) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +91 22 6636 9251; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com)) ((If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org))