While reporting stories of the heroic courage displayed by 20 Indian soldiers who lost their lives in a violent combat with the Chinese troops on 15 June, of talks between the commanders of both sides, clarifying details of what transpired that night in the Galwan valley, there has been a lot of vague accounts and tweaking of facts and numbers.
Till date, there has been no official confirmation from the Chinese side regarding the number of casualties.
However, Indian media - newspapers, TV channels and social media news platforms - have reported the information quoting Indian ‘sources’ but attributing it to the Chinese government.
‘Jawans Broke Necks of PLA Soldiers:’ Deccan Chronicle, Prabhat Khabar
‘Valiant jawans broke neck of PLA soldiers’ was the headline of a story in the Hyderabad edition of Deccan Chronicle written by journalist Vikram Sharma on 20 June.
The article states that using the most “primitive fight methods ever,” Indian soldiers, had launched the most brutal counter-attack against the Chinese troops after the Commanding Officer Col B Santosh Babu was killed.
“Some had their necks dangling from their bodies while those whose faces were smashed with stones were beyond recognition,” read the article.
Citing “inputs from multiple sources,” the article went on to detail how the Chinese troops had a “tough time handling the bodies of their soldiers, because many of whose limbs were broken or severed.”
The headline and the article however, failed to mention that there was no official confirmation in this regard.
On 21 June, a story by Ojaswi on the front page of Prabhat Khabar, read‘Bihar regiment Showed their Brutal Side, Snapped the Necks of 18 Chinese Soldiers.’
Without citing any source, the article talked of how the bodies of the Chinese soldiers were ‘beyond recognition.’ PLA soldiers in an attempt to escape from the Indian soldiers, had reportedly ran to the nearby mountains and so the Indian soldiers who were chasing them ended up in the custody of PLA.
‘Chinese Commanding Officer Among Those Killed:’ The Economic Times, NDTV
An article, titled ‘Colonel Babu Got Hit in the Head: A Detailed Account of the Brawl at Galwan With Chinese Soldiers’ published in The Economic Times had cited "debriefing of soldiers involved in the scuffle.
The journalists stated that their sources had told that the external affairs minister had informed leaders at the all-party meeting that the Chinese side had confirmed losing “a senior PLA officer, believed to the commanding officer.”
The article also stated that the Chinese side suffered substantial casualties with “17 bodied being handed over” and “sources said that over 40 stretchers were spotted on the other side.”
NDTV too had reported about how this was “the first admission from China of any casualty,” stating a Chinese commanding officer was among those killed. However, the headline of the article -- ‘At Talks, China Confirms Commanding Officer Was Killed In Ladakh: Sources’ - stating that this was based on information from sources.
‘Biharis Lost Control and Started Attacking the Chinese Ferociously:’ ANI
On 21 June, an article in ANI titled ‘How the Biharis Removed the Chinese Observation Post From Pp-14 in Galwan Valley’ gave a detailed account of how the ‘violent clash’ began on that night.
Attributing facts to ‘sources’, the story talked of how the Indian troops with around 50 people with Commanding Officer Colonel Santosh Babu in the lead had gone to ask the Chinese to leave the Indian soil. When the discussion became heated up, the 300-350 Chinese troops gathered began attacking.
The “Biharis lost control and started attacking the Chinese ferociously,” which resulted in “several Chinese troops” being killed or injured seriously.
“Next morning, when the situation calmed down relatively, the dead bodies of the Chinese troops were lying in the open and was handed over to them by Indian troops,” sources told ANI.
The article was reposted by Hindustan Times and Free Press Journal as well.
Lost in Translation
The Malayalam daily Manorama published an article on 23 June, titled ‘Finally China admits, its commanding officer killed; less than 20 soldiers killed.’ Citing a similar “source” from the all-party meeting, the report said that the Chinese had “admitted to the death of the commanding officer in talks with India.”
The article had also quoted the state media Global Times stating “less than 20 Chinese soldiers were killed.” However the Chinese publication didn’t say this.
Citing Chinese experts, the article said, "[T]he reason why China did not release the number is that China also wants to avoid an escalation, because if China's casualties number less than 20, the Indian government would again come under pressure."
‘16 Chinese Personnel Confirmed Dead:’ India Today
At 4.34 pm, on 21 June, India Today claimed that they were the “first to confirm via the tactical debris found by the Indian army that 16 Chinese personnel were confirmed dead on the battlefield.”
He even mentioned an “unspecified number who probably died the following day as well on the Chinese side,” and “an exchange of personnel from both side” a day after the incident. He went on to say nothing is in “black and white” and this is much more complicated but the media channel “brought this complexity out for the first time.”
In an interview with TV News24, V K Singh, the minister for roads and transport, had also told on Saturday, “If 20 were martyred on our (Indian) side, then there would have been at least double the casualties on their (China) side.”
‘False Information,’ Says China
In a press conference held on 23 June, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian was asked if the government will divulge the number of Chinese troops who might have been killed or injured in the incident.
“As I said yesterday, China and India are resolving the issue on the ground through military and diplomatic channels. As for Indian media reports that cite Indian officials as saying at least 40 Chinese soldiers were killed, I can tell you responsibly that this is false information.”Zhao Lijian, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson
‘Should Not Even Expect China to Acknowledge Casualties’
Hu Xijin, Editor-in-chief of Chinese and English editions of the Global Times, had taken to Twitter to tell that while he is aware that the Chinese side also suffered casualties.
"Chinese side didn’t release number of PLA casualties in clash with Indian soldiers. My understanding is the Chinese side doesn’t want people of the two countries to compare the casualties number so to avoid stoking public mood. This is goodwill from Beijing,” he tweeted.
Manoj Kewalramani had told The Quint said this tweet is ‘the only real information we've got about the casualties.’
Taylor Fravel, Director of MIT Security Studies Program (SSP), took to Twitter to highlight how China doesn’t own up and has a track record of hiding deaths.