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Should India have waited? ‘Hurried’ burial for Uri attackers raises eyebrows

The burial of the four suspected Jaish militants just a day after they killed 18 soldiers in Uri has raised some questions, with experts saying India should have waited and confronted Pakistan with the bodies.

Within hours of the pre-dawn strike on Sunday, the worst against the army in a decade in Jammu and Kashmir, the force said the attackers were “foreign terrorists”.
“It appears the burials were done hurriedly. There should be a consistency template in handling bodies of terrorists after such attacks,” strategic affairs expert and air vice marshal (retd) Kapil Kak said on Tuesday.
The Uri attackers were buried on Monday in a graveyard close to the northern Kashmir army camp. Typically, foreign militants are buried at Kitchama, which is close to the Line of Control and 25km from Uri.
The last rites could have been deferred, given the bodies of Pathankot attackers were preserved for some time, Kak said.
Read | India’s fallen heroes: The 18 soldiers who lost their lives in Uri attack
The bodies of the men who struck the Pathankot airbase in January were kept in a morgue for four months, while the five-member suicide squad that attacked Parliament in 2001 got burials after a month.
In both the cases, India asked Pakistan to accept the bodies and carried out the last rites after Islamabad failed to respond.
The bodies of the nine Lashkar-e-Taiba men killed during the 2008 Mumbai siege were kept in a city morgue for more than a year before they were buried at a secret location.
India initially asked Pakistan to inform the families of the nine men to collect the bodies but there was no response.
The bodies were embalmed and kept in the JJ Hospital in a sealed room, with the temperature set at 4°Celsius to prevent decomposition.
It was a standard practice to file an FIR after an operation and hand over bodies to police, an army officer said. “The NIA has collected the forensic evidence and there is nothing unusual about the burials,” he said.
Read | Day after Uri, Pak top judge accuses parties of backing terrorists: Report
A team of National Investigation Agency, the country’s premier anti-terror body, visited the army’s 12 Brigade headquarters on Monday to gather forensic evidence, including DNA samples. It also took pictures of the bodies, sources said.
“As per the Geneva Convention, only the bodies of soldiers are to be returned,” former northern army commander Lt Gen BS Jaswal (retd) said. Police, tasked with final rites, also mapped the burial sites so that the bodies can be exhumed, he said.
The bodies were charred and had begun to stink, police said. “There was no facility to store the bodies in Uri… We handed the bodies to the local wakf for burial,” a police official said.
Authorities were also worried that crowds could gather at the site and demand a burial, a source said. The border state is still reeling under street protests that erupted after a militant commander was killed in a gunfight with security forces in southern Kashmir on July 8.
Thousands of people had gathered at the funeral of a foreign militant, Abu Qasim, in October 2015 after which public burials for foreign militants were banned.

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