Resort in Uttarakhand where female receptionist was murdered. Photo: PTI
Dehradun: The body of Ankita Bhandari who worked in an Uttarakhand resort was recovered from a canal on Saturday, police said as the ruling BJP swung into action to expel its leader whose son, the main accused, owned the property and the administration began demolishing the structure.
Outrage over the killing of the 19-year-old, who worked as a receptionist in the Vanantara resort in Pauri district's Yamkeshwar block owned by Haridwar BJP leader Vinod Arya's son Pulkit Arya, escalated as details emerged of her trauma in the days preceding her death.
Violent protests erupted in areas surrounding the resort with locals breaking glass panes and some trying to torch a pickle factory in its premises. However, the fire did not spread much as the weather was cloudy.
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.
This had been gleaned from her chat with a friend, he 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 administration had started demolishing the structure on Friday night on grounds of illegalities.
Vinod Arya had formerly served as chairperson of the Uttarakhand Mati Board with a state minister's rank. His other son Ankit, who was also in the BJP, has now been removed as vice president of Uttarakhand OBC Commission.
Bhandari had called a friend the night before she was reported missing to say she was in trouble, according to local reports.
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.
The autopsy is being done at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, police said.
According to Pauri Additional SP Shekhar Chandra Suyal, Ankita was found missing by her parents on September 19 (Monday) but they reported the matter to the revenue police the following day.
Due to slow progress in the investigation, the matter was handed over to regular police on September 22 and the arrests made on September 23 (Friday).
The three men accused of the crime initially tried to mislead the police, but confessed when interrogated closer, Suyal said yesterday.
On Friday, crowds attacked the police car when the accused were being taken to a court in Kotdwar. They smashed the windowpanes of the car and roughed up the three men. Some womem who were part of the mob demanded that the accused must be “hanged.”