Ankita Bhandari murder: Drugs, prostitution rampant at Pulkit Arya's resort
Prostitution and drug abuse were rampant at Uttarakhand's Vanantra Resort, where the late 19-year-old Ankita Bhandari was working as a receptionist, former employees alleged on Tuesday. The resort is owned by Pulkit Arya—the son of now-expelled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vinod Arya—who is the main accused in Bhandari's alleged murder in Rishikesh. Reportedly, Pulkit had been forcing Bhandari into a prostitution racket.
Why does this story matter?
- Bhandari went missing on September 18 after the accused reportedly pressurized her to indulge in prostitution.
- Widespread outrage erupted in Uttarakhand as people demanded action, following which the accused were held on Friday (September 23). They reportedly confessed to the crime.
- Her body was found in the Chilla canal on Saturday (September 24).
- The BJP later expelled Vinod and his other son Ankit, too.
Former resort employee alleged she was abused
Rishita—a former receptionist at Vanantra—on Tuesday alleged the management provided illicit liquor, cannabis, other drugs, and even girls to the guests. She told NDTV, "I felt they wanted me to get into it too... They would abuse me, use the worst of slurs." Her husband Vivek—a former housekeeper at the resort—alleged he was "beaten up and blackmailed" after he raised objections over the activities.
'Arya provided drugs and girls to guests'
The duo left Vanantra about two months ago, around the same time Bhandari joined. Vivek claimed the management leveled theft allegations against him, and the local revenue official—who handled law and order there—sided with Arya in "assaulting" him mentally and physically. Vivek resumed work shortly after—upon Arya's assurance—but soon, it was "business as usual" for Arya, who continued providing "drugs and girls" to guests.
Beaten up while trying to quit
Vivek said he worked at the resort for over a month before he decided to quit. When he asked Arya for his salary, he was allegedly thrashed and threatened. Upon his complaint, Vivek said, the local revenue officer reached Vanantra but sided with Arya. "They abused me and threatened me with torture in custody. I was forced to write an apology," he said.
Administration under fire for resort demolition
The Uttarakhand government is under fire after the local district administration demolished the resort partly last week in an alleged attempt to destroy evidence. However, Uttarakhand DIG PR Devi—head of the special investigation team (SIT) in the case—clarified all evidence was collected before the demolition. "All evidence has been collected. Rumors of evidence being destroyed are baseless and untrue," BJP spokesperson Suresh Joshi said.
Bhandari's cremation held on Sunday evening
Meanwhile, Bhandari's last rites were conducted at Pauri Garhwal's ITI Ghat on Sunday. Her family initially refused to cremate her, demanding her final autopsy report. Bhandari—who joined Vanantra less than a month ago—reportedly died of drowning, and blunt force injuries were also found on her body. Moreover, cops are in possession of WhatsApp chats which reportedly corroborate that Arya was forcing Bhandari into prostitution.
Deceased couldn't even draw first salary
The deceased's mother was reportedly an Anganwadi worker, while her father used to work as a security guard but quit some years ago. Bhandari had finished her schooling and was looking forward to college but couldn't take admission as her family was facing a financial crisis. So, she decided to take up the resort receptionist's job and moved to Rishikesh, 130km from her village.
What exactly happened?
Reportedly, Arya was angry over Bhandari revealing to her colleagues about his unsolicited advances. He and the other accused—his friend Ankit and resort manager Saurabh—took Bhandari out on September 18 to resolve the dispute. They headed to Rishikesh on two bikes, with Arya and Bhandari riding together. They stopped midway, where Arya and Ankit drank together, and later she was pushed into the river.