SRINAGAR: Atta Mohammad Khan, a gravedigger who played critical role in the discovery of 'mass graves' in Kashmir, has died. He was 73.

According to family and police sources, Khan, who buried more than two hundred unknown persons in a graveyard in Uri, died Sunday night at his home in Chahal Bimbyar village of Uri. He was battling asthma for a long time.

The late gravedigger claimed to have buried 235 bodies in Uri with a majority of them "unidentified persons" killed in the war-torn Kashmir valley since 2003. He also finds mention in 'Buried Evidence', a report on mass graves by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice, a civil society gathering fighting for the victims of enforced disappearances in Kashmir,

In his own words, Khan, father to four daughters and a son, claimed to have buried more than 235 "bullet-riddled and mutilated human bodies" handed over to him by police. He said he was told the bodies were of foreign militants but some of them later turned out to be locals.

“The army used to hand over bodies to local police stations and the policemen had to bury them. The policemen in turn used to come to gravediggers like me with the bodies. It used to be one body, three bodies or sometimes more than six per day. It continued for years and I would bury them here in the same graveyard,” he wrote.

Khurram Pervez, a rights activist with Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, said Khan playing a crucial role in documenting the presence of mass graves in Kashmir. "He was a man of great courage and the report on mass graves would not have been possible without his help," Pervez said.

The twin reports, brought out in 2008 and 2009, document 2,700 unmarked graves containing 2,943 people in three northern districts, situated close to the Line of Control, in Kashmir Valley. The reports were acknowledged by the State Human Rights Commission in 2011, which admitted to the presence of 2,156 unidentified bodies in 38 sites in north Kashmir.