The contrast couldn’t be more incongruous. Affectionately referred to as ‘Rani’ and ‘Basanti’, there is nothing feminine about the the bullet-proof Rakshaks — specially designed vehicles by Mahindra Defence Systems for crowd control — that the Jammu and Kashmir police increasingly view as saviours amid a rising graph of protests this month.To express their gratitude to the vehicles that keep them safe amid a barrage of stones, grenades and other projectiles, many senior officers have posted pictures of the dented and battered vehicles on the social media after the demonstrations against the rape of a three-year-old girl in Bandipora earlier this month. Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Ganderbal, Fayaz Ahmad Lone wrote: “One can understand the quantum of stone pelting we face.” SSP, Shopian, Shailendra Kumar Mishra, administering the most volatile district in south Kashmir, tweeted a picture of his battered but undeterred Rakshak. “Our trophy. It takes stones, bricks, petrol bombs, grenades, live fire, pipes, fruit carts, rods, and what not. The Rakshak vehicle is a true companion of the J&K Police,” he said. Sub-Divisional Police Officer Amran Farooq is among the officers who survived an attack of stone-throwing, thanks to the vehicle’s armoured plating by Plasan Sasa, a variety of steel fabricated in Israel. “It was during the post-Burhan Wani protests in 2016 that my Rakshak was stuck on an interior stretch in Anantnag, with stones raining from all sides. It was evening, the front lamps were damaged. The vehicle took stones for over two hours before we negotiated the huge logs and boulders blocking the road. It stood steady all this while,” he told The Hindu. Introduced in 2008 with just 100 vehicles, the Rakshak was improved after the 2016 street protests. The company claims the vehicle has withstood 41 live fire tests and a grenade explosion underneath it. The J&K police further modified the vehicle to meet local challenges — the head lamps were covered with wire mesh and the five firing ports and small bullet-roof windows were cushioned with fizz bottles and mesh “to recoil the stones thrown”. A fleet of around 50 such vehicles was inducted in 2017 to control situation in south Kashmir. And the department has requisitioned for more. Former Director General of Police (DGP) K. Rajendra said the vehicle has emerged as the life line for the State police in its fight against militants and stone throwers. “Any delay in procurement of such essential equipment will severely dent operational capacity of the J&K Police,” he said.