Dehradun: Texts recovered by the police have revealed that 19-year-old Ankita Bhandari told a friend about her being coerced into ‘sex work’ by her employer, Pulkit Arya, the son of a now-expelled BJP leader. In one such message to a friend, Ankita wrote: “Maine bola bhai tu kya sochta hai, gareeb hoon to ye 10k mein bik jau [I asked him what do you think, I will sell myself for 10,000 if I’m poor?].”
“Bahut insecurity feel hoti hai iss resort mein [I feel very insecure in this resort],” read another message to the same friend.
Ankita’s father, Virendra Singh Bhandari criticised the Pauri district administration Sunday for demolishing her room at the Vanantra resort in Rishikesh where she worked as a receptionist. Angry locals had stormed the building and set parts of it on fire after district officials deployed bulldozers to demolish parts of the resort citing illegal construction.
“Why did the administration demolish only one room of the resort where my daughter stayed,” Ankita’s father asked, alleging that the action may have led to destruction of critical forensic evidence.
He also said that the family would not cremate Ankita’s body until it received a copy of the final report of the post mortem conducted Saturday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Rishikesh. However, the family later agreed to conduct her final rites after receiving assurances from the police of a thorough investigation into her death.
“They [family members] are unwilling to listen to us but we are trying our best to persuade them to conduct Ankita’s last rites. We have assured the family that police are keeping strict watch and there won’t be any tampering with evidence or post mortem report pertaining,” Pauri SSP Yashwant Singh had told ThePrint earlier Sunday.
Ankita, who had joined the upmarket Vanantra resort in Rishikesh as a receptionist in August this year, was reported missing on 18 September. Her body was recovered from Chilla Barrage Saturday.
The Uttarakhand government has set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe Ankita Bhandari’s death.
Police have arrested three men including her employer Pulkit Arya — son of former BJP leader Vinod Arya — and associates Saurav Bhaskar and Ankit Gupta in connection with her death. Police suspect that she was murdered over her refusal to reciprocate advances made by Pulkit Arya and for refusing to provide “additional services” to guests at the resort.
Ashok Kumar, Director General (DG) of Uttarakhand Police told ThePrint Sunday: “It is difficult to say if they ran a sex racket from here or were aspiring for it. However, it is clear from the chat details between Ankita and her friend from Jammu that she was being forced to accept the ‘extra service’ offer from the accused.”
All three culprits will be charged under the Gangster Act, along with relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), said DG Kumar, adding that Arya has been “taken into police remand and the truth will be out soon”.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Garwhal, K.S. Nagnyal said the police are still trying to ascertain whether the accused were operating a “sex racket” from the resort. “Nevertheless, it is true that the main accused [Arya] did not have good intent towards the victim,” he added.
The BJP has since expelled Vinod Arya and his other son, Ankit Arya, from the party.
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‘Took job to support family’
According to the provisional post mortem report, a copy of which is with ThePrint, “asphyxia consequent upon antemortem drowning” has been identified as the cause of death in Ankita’s case. The report adds that doctors found “antemortem injuries on the body, suggestive of blunt force trauma”.
“We are not happy with the post mortem report so far. There may be something suspicious in the present report. They [accused] are politically influential people and can do anything,” Ankita’s father told reporters Sunday morning. He, however, did not elaborate further on what might have led him to doubt the findings of the preliminary post mortem report.
Bhandari also demanded that a fast-track court be set up to bring his daughter’s killers to justice.
Ankita’s uncle, Rajendra Singh Bhandari told ThePrint that she opted for the job in Rishikesh to support her family financially and always spoke of helping her elder brother pursue his goal to become a chartered accountant. He also said that Ankita was a very good student and cleared Class 12 from a local government school with 88 per cent.
“She was very supportive of her mother Soni Devi, an Anganwadi worker, and her father after he lost his teaching job during Covid-19. She was a polite and decent girl who wanted to make a career in the hospitality industry after completion of her diploma in hotel management from a private institute in Dehradun earlier this year,” said the uncle.
Ankita’s uncle further alleged that prime accused Pulkit Arya started interacting with her more after she advised him to consider opening a spa to expand his business.
The prime accused in Ankita Bhandari’s case, Pulkit Arya was booked in 2016 by Haridwar Police on charges of forgery and fraud for “making someone else write” his entrance examination for Rishikul Ayurveda College. Sources in the Uttarakhand police also revealed that Arya was allegedly involved in the illegal trade of the high-priced herb Yarsagumba — also known as Himalayan Viagra, it is found in higher parts of the Himalayas.
(This report has been updated with additional inputs)
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
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