During construction work on a new bus terminal in Haldwani near Nainital, 40 skeletons and 300 grave-like structures were discovered. Although the discovery came a week ago, it was made public on Tuesday, and has reportedly caused a frenzy among officials and locals in the town.

Government officials, locals and histories have offered diverging theories about the origin of the skeletons. One suggests that the skeletons belong to Bareilly’s Rohilla soldiers who fought the British in 1857, but were killed. Another one says the remains could belong to victims of epidemics.

“It is my belief that the graves may date to the period between 1786-1803 when there are reports of Muslims fleeing to the forests of Gaulapar area during the Gurkha reign in the region,” HS Bhakuni, assistant professor of history in MB Govt PG College in Haldwani, told The Times of India. “However, nothing can be conclusively said without proper investigation and research.”

Chief minister Trivendra Rawat, who was visiting the area on Wednesday, said that the skeletons will be analysed and carbon-dated. Work for the bus terminal has been going on since 2014, and this is the first instance of mass graves being discovered.

“We will have to investigate the matter properly,” Parag Madhukar Dhakate, conservator of forests, Western Circle, Kumaon division reportedly said. “As of now, we have no documented proof of any graveyard being there on the land.”

State Transport Minister Yashpal Arya has ordered work to be stopped so that the analysis can be initiated.