Leh: All of 48 years and maybe more, the 'Jarpal Queen', a symbol of India's triumph against Pakistan, travels through the length and breadth of India as a 'war trophy' of the Indian Army.
The 'Queen', named after Jarpal in Pakistan, is actually royalty on four wheels, a Willys jeep, sleek, shiny and in shipshape condition, the object of lavish attention at the 3 Grenadier Regiment's camp, about 40 km from Leh.
The vehicle, with Urdu script on its sides, is a "war trophy" captured from Pakistan during the 1971 conflict.
Once fitted with a recoilless gun, this US-origin jeep now travels across India as a prized possession of the Regiment, which has ensured the almost 50-year-old vehicle moves like a well-oiled machine.
"We captured it during the Jarpal war and it was used by the Pakistani army as a part of their attack plan at Shakargarh border, in Jarpal area of Pakistan. So, it was named Jarpal Queen. From that war, India has two Param Vir Chakra medals," said Colonel (retd) J S Dhillon.
The two Param Vir Chakra awardees were Colonel Hoshiar Singh from the Grenadier Regiment and Second Lieutenant Arun Khetrapal from the Armoured Regiment.
"It is a 'war trophy' and was shown to VIP guests and was also used during guard of honour for senior officers. It is in great condition and runs very smoothly," said Dhillon, a Sena Medal recipient who was commissioned in the 3 Grenadier Regiment in 1982 and now heads the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering, Gulmarg, under the Ministry of Tourism.
He said the 'Jarpal Queen' had gone wherever the Regiment has been stationed. Jaipur, Kupwara, Simla, Poonch, Meerut, Ferozepur... the list is long.
In 1988, when the Regiment was in Ferozpur in Punjab, the jeep was registered with the Punjab transport department for it to be driven on the road.
"We took a number, insured and registered it. As far as I can recall, except the regiment's UN mission to Eithopia, the jeep has gone everywhere with them," said Dhillon.
The jeep has also been witness to numerous border skirmishes with the neighbouring country, particularly during the regiment's stints in Jammu and Kashmir.
A full-scale war broke out between India and Pakistan over East Pakistan in 1971. It ended with surrender of 90,000 Pakistani troops and led to the creation of Bangladesh.