Indian soldiers who died in close combat with Chinese troops last month were unarmed and surrounded by a larger force on a steep ridge, Indian government sources, two soldiers deployed in the area and families of the fallen men said.
One of the Indian soldiers 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 soldiers died in the June 15 clash on the de facto border separating the two armies. The soldiers 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 neighbours since 1967, when the simmering border dispute flared into deadly battles.
Analyst 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 metres) amid remote, barren mountains.
Analyst contacted the military hospital in India’s Ladakh region where the bodies were brought. The hospital declined to comment on the cause of death and said that the bodies were sent to the families along with the death certificates.
The soldiers cannot be named because of military rules and all the families asked for anonymity because they said they were not supposed to speak about military matters.
The Indian defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the fighting on June 15.
In response to a Reuters query, a China foreign ministry spokesperson repeated previous statements blaming the Indian side for crossing the de facto border and provoking the Chinese.
“When Chinese officers and soldiers went there to negotiate, they were suddenly and violently attacked by the Indian troops,” the spokesperson said. “The rights and wrongs of the incident are very clear. The responsibility absolutely does not lie with the Chinese.”
China has not provided evidence of Indian aggression. China’s defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment.