The body of Ankita Bhandari who worked as a receptionist in Vanantara resort was recovered from a canal on Saturday, police said as the ruling BJP swung into action to expel its leader Vinod Arya whose son, the main accused in the case, owned the property and the administration began demolishing the structure.
The BJP leader's son Pulkit Arya, who owns the resort in Pauri's Yamkeshwar block, was arrested Friday along with two employees of the resort, manager Saurabh Bhaskar, and assistant manager Ankit Gupta after they confessed to the murder of Ankita Bhandari.
Vinod Arya, a party leader from Haridwar, has formerly served as a chairman 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 the Uttarakhand OBC Commission.
Outrage over the killing of the 19-year-old escalated as details emerged of her trauma in the days preceding her death.
A day after the government demolished parts of the resort owned by Pulkit Arya, the building was set on fire by the enraged locals. Some tried to torch a pickle factory on 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.
#WATCH | Rishikesh, Uttarakhand: Locals protested against BJP MLA Renu Bisht & vandalised her car as they agitated over Ankita Bhandari murder case.The MLA was escorted away by Police— ANI (@ANI) September 24, 2022
3 accused,incl BJP leader Vinod Arya's son Pulkit Arya, arrested in connection with the matter pic.twitter.com/RExf8pExAS
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.
The victim Ankita Bhandari had been under pressure from Pulkit Arya 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. She had called a friend the night before she was reported missing to say she was in trouble, according to local reports.
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.
Congress staged protests in district headquarters across the state on Saturday to voice its anger over the vulnerability of women in the state. Uttarakhand 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.
WATCH | #AnkitaBhandari murder case: Locals set Vanatara resort in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand on fire.— ANI UP/Uttarakhand (@ANINewsUP) September 24, 2022
The resort is owned by BJP leader Vinod Arya's son Pulkit Arya. Three accused, including Pulkit, have been arrested in connection with the murder case. pic.twitter.com/7Zx0T6HJIB
(With inputs from PTI)