The sturdy Nissan-designed Jonga inducted by the Indian Army in 1963 has just been given a burial. Two weeks ago, the army’s last Jonga made its 500-km journey from Mhow to Jabalpur, 300 km east of Bhopal, to rest at a memorial there.
The large four-wheel drive vehicle ferried men and machines without as much as a murmur even at great altitudes for more than three decades. But it is now giving way to more fuel-efficient and easy-to-handle vehicles.
In the early 60s, the army had obtained a licence from Japanese automobile giant Nissan to manufacture the Jonga in Jabalpur. Jonga is an acronym for Jabalpur Ordnance and Guncarriage Assembly. The army stopped producing the jonga in 1999.
Those who have used the Jonga have memories of a reliable companion that rarely let them down.
Said Major General (retired) Ashok Bamezai, “It was a very powerful vehicle and made for a comfortable ride. But unlike the jeep, it required deft handling. If it was not driven properly it could go on a nasty skid or overturn.” Bamezai was an officer of the Electrical & Mechanical Engineering corps responsible for maintenance of the vehicles and other machinery.
For the Indian Army it was a step towards self-reliance, as it did not have to depend on hand-me-down vehicles from other countries. The Jongas proved their worth in the 1965 and 1971 wars and other counter-insurgency operations in the country.
The Jonga is now a rarity. You will find some of them in hill stations such as Darjeeling. Like an old soldier, the Jonga will never die — it will just fade away.