I write this as a citizen who is concerned about the death of 20 of our soldiers at Galwan, the injury to 76 others and the angst of those ten who were taken captive by the Chinese army for a few days.
The questions that I ask are rooted in common sense. They need to be asked so that those in authority can take corrective steps. We cannot afford to lose even one even one life because of a false sense of bravado that masquerades as nationalism and may lead to such fatal mistakes being repeated.
We have been told almost nothing about the actual incident. Most of our information has come to us either by way of selective ‘leaks’ or nuggets picked up from the foreign media. Reluctantly, the government has admitted to these bits and pieces that the world has shared with us.
These questions are:
1. Why did the Army/government put out piecemeal information of the fatalities, of those wounded and the ones missing in action? The differences in the numbers cited with each release of information was staggering – three fatalities, initially, which spurted to 20 subsequently. Likewise, there was a deafening silence on the 16th about those held captive; on the 19th we were informed that 10 had lost their way after the clash and fell into Chinese hands
2. Why was such a large contingent sent out, if the intent was only to ask the Chinese to withdraw?
3. Who ordered the troops to destroy the camp when the Chinese refused to withdraw?
4. In whose territory did the fight occur, if they did not enter our territory?
5. Why were our men sent near sunset, particularly with no moon out that night? As per our Prime Minister, the Chinese had not entered our territory. What then was the urgency?
6. Did the brigade or division commander have any idea how many Chinese soldiers were likely to confront us, including reserves? Why did they send a force equivalent to the strength of a company, which apparently proved inadequate? Especially because their orders were to destroy the camp and a violent face-off was very likely?
7. What reserves were available and how far from the point of engagement were they positioned? Were the reserves inadequate? If so, why? If not, if there were indeed sufficient reserves, why did not reinforcements reach our men in time?
8. Was the formation in which the soldiers were deployed suited for hand-to-hand combat? Had they been instructed what they should do in case of an attack by the Chinese?
9. Why were other troops not positioned on the heights overlooking the point of engagement to provide support in case of a contingency, exactly the kind of incident that occurred?
10. What special training did our jawans receive, considering that any fighting in this location would be without firearms? Were they instructed as to in what formation they must deploy, because hand-to-hand fighting could be involved? For example, in a bayonet charge there is a lead soldier flanked, one step back, by two flankers to protect his sides. Did they have weapons other than firearms, especially as a confrontation was expected?
11. Why did our men not use bayonets or other side-arms if firearms were banned? Were they equipped with these? The Chinese used studded clubs.
12. Why did our men get into a vulnerable position on a narrow ledge, from which so many could be pushed into an ice-cold river?
13. Several died of hypothermia, we hear. Is that true? Why were they not rescued from the river sooner? The situation must have been bad and it was a dark night but medical teams could have saved at least a few.
14. Given the seriousness of the confrontation since early May, was the battalion of the Bihar Regiment trained to deal with violence without firearms?
15. Have the standing instructions to troops facing the Chinese been changed since then?
The Chinese know the answers to most of these questions. Why would the government want to not share these answers with its own people?