Dehradun: The All India Institute Medical Science (AIIMS) in Rishikesh drew large crowds Saturday as people gathered to protest the alleged killing of 19-year-old Ankita Bhandari.
The protestors raised slogans against the accused and demanded capital punishment while also alleging that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state was attempting to “cover up” the case since the main accused — Pulkit Arya — is the son of Haridwar-based BJP leader Vinod Arya.
The vehicle of local MLA Renu Bisht, who visited the hospital to meet Ankita’s parents, was attacked. The crowd smashed the car’s windows, while some demanded they be allowed to meet Bhandari’s parents.
Bhandari had gone missing from the Chilla Barrage area on 18 September and her body was recovered from a canal in Rishikesh Saturday — almost a week after she went missing. The teenage girl’s body has been taken to AIIMS, Rishikesh, for postmortem.
The Pauri district authorities have also ordered that the postmortem be conducted on-camera.
The police have already taken Pulkit Arya, the owner of the Vanantra Resort where Bhandari worked as a receptionist, into custody and the BJP leader’s son has been sent to 14-day judicial remand along with the resort’s manager Saurav Bhaskar and his assistant Ankit Gupta.
Earlier in the day, while the three accused were being led into custody after their appearance in court, several angry women were seen lunging in attack at them.
The irate public also attacked a gooseberry processing unit in the state, setting it on fire, while protestors in Mussoorie demanded a speedy trial.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has ordered a thorough investigation into Bhandari’s death.
In a tweet Saturday, Dhami said: “An SIT (special investigation team) has been constituted under the leadership of DIG P Renuka Devi for thorough and early investigation of the killing of Ankita and ensure harshest punishment to the culprits. Bulldozer action was taken last night against the illegally built resort of the accused.”
Meanwhile, to save face, the BJP Saturday expelled Pulkit Arya’s father Vinod Arya and brother Ankit Arya from the party’s primary membership. Prior to that Ankit was removed from his post as vice-chairman of Uttarakhand Other Backward Class Commission by the CM.
Senior Superintendent of Police Yashwant Chauhan told thePrint that the police had enough evidence to nail the accused. “We have seen messages by Ankita on how the main accused Pulkit Arya made advances towards her and tried to force her for ‘additional services’ apart from doing her job as a receptionist in the Vanantra Resort.”
The body of the girl was found stuck to the barrage wall after the district magistrate ordered the canal water be drained.
The girl, who was from Shrikot village in Pauri, was identified by her father and brother Saturday morning.
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A ‘confession’, ‘drunken brawl’
Bhandari had gone missing while on her way back to the resort with the three accused from a day trip to Rishikesh.
“Ankita was not willing to join the trip to Rishikesh,” said SSP Chauhan. “But Pulkit and the other two managed to persuade her. They came to Rishikesh on two motorcycles, spent the day and left in the evening.”
According to the police account of Arya’s “confession”, the men stopped near the barrage to have a drink on their way back, got into a drunken brawl, following which Arya allegedly pushed the girl into the canal.
On the orders of the chief minister, parts of the Vanantra resort were demolished Friday, and the state’s district magistrates have been asked to round up all illegal resorts and take immediate action.
Protestors also demanded to know why only one room of the resort had been bulldozed and not the entire structure. However, in his tweets, CM Dhami said that certain areas of the resort had been sealed for forensics to gather more evidence
The demolished resort stood 600 metres from the Ganga and was well advertised on travel portals. Its luxury rooms boasted of “exotic flavours from the foremost parts of India”. Located within a sal forest, it appears to have been a popular destination for tourists, with rooms priced at Rs 7,000 per day.
Ironically, the site also promised “empowerment strategies in the workplace”, to “inspire” their team to develop a proactive work culture.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)
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