Hours after the body of 19-year-old Ankita Bhandari was recovered from a canal in Uttarakhand’s Rishikesh on Saturday, locals set fire to the resort at which she worked. The resort was owned by Pulkit Arya, the son of former Uttarakhand BJP minister Vinod Arya and the main accused in the teenager’s murder case. The BJP has expelled Vinod Arya from the party over the incident.
Violent protests erupted in areas surrounding the resort with locals breaking glass panes and some trying to torch a pickle factory in its premises.
BJP’s Yamkeshwar MLA Renu Bisht’s car was also attacked near the Cheela canal close to Rishikesh from where the young woman’s body was recovered, six days after her parents found her missing from her room. However, the crowds, seething with anger, succeeded only in breaking the rear windscreen of her car and Bisht was escorted to safety by police personnel.
Bhandari had been under pressure from Pulkit Arya — who was arrested on Friday with resort manager Saurabh Bhaskar and assistant manager Ankit Gupta and sent to 14 days judicial custody — to provide “special services” to guests, Director General of Police Ashok Kumar said.
Earlier in the day, Bhandari’s Facebook friend reportedly alleged that she was killed because she refused to have sex with guests as demanded by the owner of the resort.
As the ripples of anger spread, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami promised that no one would be spared and that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Deputy Inspector General P Renuka Devi had been constituted to probe all aspects.
“It is a tragic incident. Such a heinous crime has been committed against our daughter. Action is being taken against those involved in it. The father and brother of the main accused Pulkit Arya have been expelled from the BJP,” Dhami told reporters.
“Demolition of the resort owned by the main accused is underway. Some of its rooms have also been sealed so that evidence is not destroyed. We have also issued an order to identify all resorts built illegally on government or forest land and demolish them,” he added.
The Congress staged protests in district headquarters across the state on Saturday to voice its anger over the vulnerability of women in the state.
Pradesh Congress Committee president Karan Mahra said the young woman had gone missing on September 18 and the FIR was lodged four days later. “It shows the state government is not serious in its actions. Women are not safe in Uttarakhand,” Mahra said.
“The action being taken by the state government is just an eyewash. The resort has been demolished only partially. It may also be an attempt to destroy evidence,” added Congress leader Garima Dhasauni.
Countering the allegations of delay in action against the culprits, DGP Kumar said the matter was transferred to regular police from revenue police on Thursday and the accused were sent behind bars within 24 hours.
With inputs from PTI