At least 20 Indian soldiers were wounded and six of them were “severely injured” in the clash between Indian and Chinese troops in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang along the Line of Actual Control last week, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Tapir Gao has told The Telegraph, the United Kingdom-based daily reported on Tuesday.
The comments made by Gao, the BJP MP from the Arunachal East constituency, differ from the Union defence ministry’s version which said that few soldiers from both sides sustained “minor injuries” in the clash on December 9.
Gao also told The Telegraph that the six soldiers who were severely wounded have been flown to Guwahati in Assam.
On Tuesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reiterated in Parliament that a few soldiers on both sides were injured.
“I would like to tell this House that none of our soldiers died or suffered any serious injury,” Singh said in a statement in the Lok Sabha. “Due to the timely intervention of Indian military commanders, PLA [People’s Liberation Army] soldiers have retreated to their own locations.”
The defence minister held China responsible for trying to “unilaterally change the status quo” along the Line of Actual Control. He added that on December 11, the local Indian Army commander of Yangtse area in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang held a flag meeting with his Chinese counterpart.
The defence minister’s statement came after the Opposition parties on Monday accused the Narendra Modi-led government of trying to cover up the clashes.
“For the last two years, we have been repeatedly trying to wake up the government, but the Modi government is trying to suppress the matter only to save its political image,” Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh tweeted. “Due to this, China’s audacity is increasing.”
Ramesh also accused Modi of putting the country in danger to save his image.
“In an attempt to make the intrusion in northern Ladakh permanent, China built 200 permanent shelters within 15-18 km of the LAC in Depsang, but the government remained silent,” he alleged. “Now this new worrying issue has come to the fore.”
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said the details of the ministry’s version seemed sketchy and sought clarification.
“What was the cause of the clash?” he asked in a series of tweets. “Were shots fired or was it like Galwan? How many soldiers have been injured? What is their condition?”
Praising the Indian Army, Owaisi claimed that it was “weak political leadership under Modi which has led to this humiliation against China”.
Owaisi also said that he has submitted a notice for adjournment in the Lok Sabha to discuss the clash.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera tweeted: “If the attack is on the map and the counter-attack is on the app, then what should happen is happening now: China has now cast its evil eye on Arunachal. Will the prime minister again give a clean chit to China to save his image?”
Khera was referring to India’s decision to block 59 mobile applications that had Chinese links following the Galwan clash.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy demanded that if China is not blackmailing the Modi government, then India should shut down all Chinese companies and inform Indians in China to return.
In its statement on Monday, the defence ministry had said that in certain areas along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang, there are some “areas of differing perception”, in which the troops of both countries patrol up to their claim lines.
“This has been the trend since 2006,” the ministry added.
An unidentified defence official had on Monday told The Hindu that injuries on the Chinese side were “much higher” than among the Indian troops. Indian officials also said that the Chinese Army had come “heavily prepared with around 300 soldiers”, but that they did not expect the Indian forces to be well-prepared.
This was the first such incident since the clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh in June 2020.
Several other Opposition leaders also tweeted about the clashes in Tawang and the significance of the development.