India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has expelled senior party leader Vinod Arya over his son Pulkit’s alleged involvement in the murder of 19-year-old receptionist Ankita Bhandari, which has sparked massive protests in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
Mr Arya has been sacked by the Uttarakhand government from his post as deputy chair of the state’s Other Backward Classes Commission, according to a press release.
Following his suspension, Mr Arya said: “The district administration should investigate the matter, and if we are wrong, action should be taken accordingly.”
Bhandari went missing earlier this week. On Saturday morning, her body was recovered close to the Chilla power plant, next to the premises of a private resort owned by Mr Arya’s son. She was allegedly killed for refusing to have sex with guests visiting the resort, said Uttarakhand’s police chief Ashok Kumar.
Pulkit Arya was arrested by the police on Friday, along with two employees of the Vanantra resort, for allegedly killing the receptionist, according to India Today.
During questioning, the accused confessed to killing Bhandari by pushing her into a canal near the resort after a fight, police said. According to the police, the victim died by drowning.
Many people gathered at Pulkit Arya’s resort on Saturday to protest about the killing and to demand strict punishment for the accused. They are reported to have thrown stones and set the resort on fire.
WATCH | #AnkitaBhandari murder case: Locals set Vanatara resort in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand on fire.
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
— ANI UP/Uttarakhand (@ANINewsUP) September 24, 2022
On the orders of Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, the Vanantra resort, which is said to have been constructed illegally, has now been demolished.
“I have ordered the constitution of the SIT [special investigation team], headed by Deputy Inspector General of police P Renu Devi, to ensure harshest punishment to culprits of the woman,” Mr Dhami said on Saturday morning.
Journalist Aparna Rangar wrote on Twitter: “Scored 88 per cent in class 12th, a brilliant student, a girl from a small village of Pauri with big dreams, pursued hotel management course, started working as a receptionist. Some monsters not only killed Ankita Bhandari and her dreams but dreams of thousand other girls.”
Bhandari’s parents lodged a missing person complaint when they found she wasn’t in her room last Monday morning. The victim was from Srikot village in Pauri Garhwal, and was hired as a receptionist at the resort about a month ago.