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Uttarakhand: BJP Leader’s Son, 2 Others Arrested in Case of ‘Missing’ Resort Receptionist

Angry people gherao police vehicle in Rishikesh after Pulkit Arya was arrested as prime accused in the suspicious case of ‘missing’ Ankita Bhandari, 19, who was allegedly sexually harassed.
Uttarakhand: BJP Leader’s Son, 2 Others Arrested in Case of ‘Missing’ Resort Receptionist

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI

New Delhi:  Uttarakhand was shocked on Friday by the case of a “missing” receptionist, who worked in upscale Vanantra Resorts alongside the river Ganges in Rishikesh. Ankita Bhandari, 19, from Pauri Garwhal, was reportedly missing since September 19, and her worried parents had been running from pillar to post, seeking some kind of help from the authorities.

On Friday, patience ran out and angry people came out on the streets after news spread on social media that Pulkit Arya, owner of the resort, was arrested along with two accomplices for ‘throwing’ Bhandari near Shakti barrage allegedly because refused to be “forced” into “servicing clients”, says a report in Firstpost and various Hindi dailies. There were reports that some people also vandalised the resort in “anger” and demanded that it be “razed” by a bulldozer.

Pulkit Arya is the son of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former minister Vinod Arya and brother of Ankit Arya, the sitting vice-chairperson of Uttrakhand OBC Welfare Commission.

According to the report citing police sources, Pulkit has confessed to his crime after being arrested.

Bhandari, who had joined the resort recently as receptionist, was from Srikot village in Pauri Garhwal, and had gone missing on September 19 under “mysterious” circumstances.

Citing police sources, the Firstpost report said the accused and his alleged accomplices tried to “mislead” the police and concocted a story to digress attention.

Initial probe, as per a police source cited in the report,  suggests that Pulkit and friends after returning from the crime scene, “behaved with the resort staff as if Ankita was still alive. The same night, the perpetrators left for Haridwar to avoid any queries. From Haridwar, Pulkit Arya called up his resort and requested that Ankita Bhandari be called to the phone since he wanted to talk to her, in an attempt to create alibis.”

Arya claimed that when the hotel staff told him that Ankita Bhandari was nowhere to be found, he called “patwari” police or revenue officials in local parlance to report her as “missing”.

The girls’ family, meanwhile, had been making the rounds of the police station concerned and also tried to look into CCTV footage from the resort, as they claimed that she had talked to them over her phone the night before she went missing. The cameras, however, were found broken, says the report.

The police have found a purported audio call recording, which has gone viral on social media, in which a girl is heard sobbing while talking to a resort staffer, asking him to fetch her. The police are also in possession of her WhatsApp chat with a colleague in which she has mentioned that Pulkit made sexual advances, at which she reprimanded him.

“He thinks I am naïve,” Ankita is said to have written in the chat with her colleague.

According to reports, people are angry because the police sat on the case for days. Some locals alleged that while the girl’s family was “not even asked for water”, the BJP leader was treated to “special tea” by the police.

“The case was transferred to the regular police only on September 22, despite local media in Rishikesh reporting the case extensively” mainly after the parents of the girl, whose body is yet to be found, marching to the police station with BJP MLA Renu Bisht, alleging that Ankita had been murdered.

As per the police, “Pulkit Arya, along with friend Ankit Gupta and resort manager Saurabh Bhaskar decided on September 18 to take Ankita out for a chat to straighten out the controversy that had broken with Ankita’s refusal to do as asked,” says the FP report.  The next day, the 19 year-old receptionist was reported missing.

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