“Arteries ruptured in the neck”: Unarmed Indian troopers caught by surprise in clash

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The families of Indian army personnel who died in combat with Chinese troops last month have said that the troopers were unarmed and surrounded by a larger force on a steep ridge, Reuters has reported.

The report also cited government sources and two soldiers deployed in the area

One of the troopers had his throat slit with metal nails in the darkness, his father told Reuters, saying he had been told by a fellow soldier who was there.

Others fell to their deaths in the freezing waters of the Galwan river in the western Himalayas, relatives have learned from witnesses.

Twenty Indian army personnel died in the June 15 clash on the de facto border separating the two armies. The troopers all belonged to the 16th Bihar Regiment deployed in the Galwan region.

No shots were fired, but it was the biggest loss of life in combat between the nuclear-armed neighbors since 1967, when the simmering border dispute flared into deadly battles.

Reuters spoke to relatives of 13 of the men who were killed, and in five cases they produced death certificates listing horrific injuries suffered during the six-hour night-time clash at 14,000 ft (4,267 meters) amid remote, barren mountains.

Reuters also spoke to two personnel of the Bihar Regiment deployed in the area, who were among those who accompanied the bodies of fallen colleagues to their homes in the area. They were not directly involved in the melee.

Three of the dead men had their “arteries ruptured in the neck” and two sustained head injuries caused by “sharp or pointed objects,” the death certificates seen by Reuters said.

There were visible marks on the neck and forehead, all five documents said.

“It was a free-for-all, they fought with whatever they could lay their hands on — rods, sticks, and even with their bare hands,” said a government official in Delhi briefed on the clash.

A relative of one of the soldiers who accompanied Col. Santosh Babu, the commanding officer, to the site of two tents erected by the Chinese troops told Reuters that members of the Indian patrol were unarmed.

They were confronted by a small group of Chinese troopers and an argument ensued over the tents and a small observation tower the relative said, on the basis of conversations with two other soldiers who were present.

Reuters was unable to establish all of the details of what happened, but government officials in New Delhi briefed on the incident said that at some point Indian troops took down the observation post and the tents because they were on India’s side of the LAC.

“Soon after the Indian side came under attack from a large Chinese force that pelted them with stones and attacked them with sharp-edged weapons, according to the families of three dead Indian soldiers, based on conversations they had with survivors,” the report revealed.

Adding some troopers retreated to safety on the ridge-line in the darkness, but when they could not find the commanding officer, they re-emerged and came under fresh attack, four family members said.

Babu was among those killed in the fighting, the Indian government said. One of the troopers deployed in the area that Reuters spoke to said the Indian patrol was outnumbered by the PLA.

“The Chinese side overwhelmed our people by sheer numbers,” said the trooper, who overheard radio messages seeking reinforcements being sent to regional headquarters in Ladakh.

Three of the Indian families said they had been told by troopers who were commissioned to bring the bodies back to them that some combatants pushed each other into the fast-flowing Galwan river.

The government official in Delhi also said bodies of some soldiers were fished out of the river the next morning. Some had succumbed to hypothermia, the official added.

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