There are no window handles, huge iron-rods lock the doors and windows, the front window is iron-netted and dents are all over the body. This is notorious Nowhatta police station's white-colour modified Gypsy, which has borne the brunt of stone pelting in trouble-torn Kashmir for long now. The vehicle, locally named Rani, has become an iconic figure after its pictures pasted across the globe by all major dailies.
Nasir Ahmad (38), who has been driving the vehicle since 2006 in the area, is nonchalant about the vagaries he faces in the violent protests.
"When I, along with Rani, is on road, our only concern to disperse the protesting crowd from swelling. Rani and our selected constables are the first to chase and clear the roads of protesters," said Ahmad, who has sustained injuries on forehead, a major fracture in left arm and injuries on the back since he was posted with the Nowhatta Police Station in 2006.
The police station, which is a bastion of moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, is notorious for stone-pelting incidents. After the 2008 Amarnath agitation, stone pelting, described as Twenty20 by locals, was a regular feature on Fridays and Sundays.
"I think children in Nowhatta are born with stones in their hands," said a head constable, who pleaded not to be named. "Even in their schoolbags they carry stones."
Police Gypsy Rani, which is 2000 model, has seen worst phase of stone throwing protesters, imminent from its shattered and ramshackle body.
"Protesters in the area use huge rocks and bricks, throw pepper-dipped water through our two pigeon-hole in the back and many a time ram the vehicle with long wooden sticks," said Ahmad.
What worry him are innovative techniques of stone pelters. "The protesters allow us to reach them only to encircle us. They then throw a burning mat on front window so that I lose sight and others with acid try to pull windows to throw it inside. The acid used even wears out iron of the vehicle," said Ahmad.
The protesters even attempted to open its fuel-tank cap to set it afire but failed in the recent protest that broke out in January this year.
The driver owes his life to the vehicle. "The Gypsy is like my son. I like it. And it never failed or ditched me. If it develops snag during protests we will be all dead inside it," said Ahmad.
The Gypsy has its front-window iron-net replaced six times in the last two years and bulletproof window all cracked. Grounded in the backyard of the police station for several weeks now, Rani being silent reflects normalcy in the area.
"Stone pelting has come down considerably after stone-pelters were kept in jail for long and some faced Public Safety Act," said a senior police officer.