Pulkit Arya, arrested for allegedly killing 19-year-old Ankita Bhandari in Rishikesh for refusing sexual favours to him and his clients, is suspected to have killed another woman in his Vanantara resort in Ganga Bhogpur of Rishikesh for the same reason. Eight months ago, Priyanka from Paudi Garhwal, the place that Ankita hailed from, had gone missing under suspicious circumstances from Vanantara resort.
There is now a public recollection of Priyanka's sudden and mysterious disappearance in the wake of the Ankita Bhandari murder case, with the dark side of Pulkit Arya exposed.
Sources say the Uttarakhand government has ordered its police to probe the alleged disappearance of Priyanka under the pressure of public backlash. Pulkit Arya is the son of ex-minister Vinod Arya and brother of the Uttarakhand OBC Welfare Commission, both expelled from the party yesterday. Priyanka perhaps met the same fate as Ankita Bhandari at the hands of or at the behest of Pulkit Arya.
At the time of Priyanka’s disappearance, Pulkit Arya had alleged that she had fled with his money and other valuables from the Vanantara resort. A local named Bitto Bhandari had drawn people's attention to the case of Priyanka.
Pulkit Arya was accused in the past of forcibly and illegally detaining a worker at his candy factory located in the vicinity of the resort. The employee’s only fault was asking for his salary. Pulkit Arya allegedly took offence and confined the man who hailed from Rudraprayag. The hostage was rescued from Arya’s clutches only after the intervention of local social worker Arvind Hatwal, who roped in the village head to exert pressure on Pulkit Arya.
Hatwal recently told local media that Pulkit had always had a ‘dabang’ (strongman) image. He had threatened Hatwal for coming in his way.
Locals say that the plot on which Vanantara resort is situated today had only a candy factory initially. Arya had the resort built on the other side of this factory in 2018-19. “Initially the resort hardly saw any guests due to Covid lockdown, but after unlock, the business started growing,” a local resident said. “He (Pulkit) never had good relations with people of this village; most of his employees were from different districts,” said the local resident.
Pulkit Arya had landed in trouble in 2020 for violating Covid 19 travel protocol. He had allegedly entered the Badrinath Temple road without a travel pass allegedly with Amarmani Tripathi, another tainted politician who is currently in jail for the murder of a girl. Both were charged under relevant IPC sections for violating pandemic guidelines.
Rishikesh is witnessing public protests against the state government, the local administration and the police. Public ire peaked after Ankita Bhandari’s body was fished out from a barrage in Rishikesh Saturday morning. Irate people waylaid the police van carrying the three accused, including Pulkit Arya, and thrashed the trio black and blue.
SDRF personnel recover the body of a female resort receptionist, who was murdered allegedly by the resort owner, from the Cheela canal, in Pauri Garhwal district on Saturday. (PTI)
People are now targeting local BJP politicians too. MLA Renu Bisht faced public ire earlier. After her car was vandalised, the police whisked her away.
Previously, despite bulldozing of Vanantara resort last night under orders from Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami, people set the resort on fire this morning.
The BJP government has swung into firefighting mode as Pulkit’s father and brother Vinod Arya and Ankit Arya, respectively, have been sacked from the party. Moreover, Ankit Arya was given the sack from the position of vice-chairman of Uttarakhand OBC Welfare Commission.
Ankita Bhandari had joined Pulkit Arya’s Vanantara resort in Rishikesh as a receptionist nearly a month ago. She went missing on 19 September. It was found in the investigation five days later that Pulkit Arya was forcing her into prostitution and that she also resisted his sexual advances.
"They are trying to turn me into a prostitute," read one of the messages from Ankita Bhandari to a friend, to whom she was describing her experiences working as a receptionist at the now expelled senior BJP leader's son's resort.
Screenshots of text messages from the victim are doing the rounds, where she describes how she was being forced into providing "special services" to clients for Rs 10,000. Cops have said initial investigations indicate the messages are indeed from the victim, but a more rigorous forensic investigation is also being conducted.
Since the matter escalated and news of Pulkit Arya’s pressure on Ankita Bhandari started seeping out in public and among the resort staff, the offender allegedly threw the victim into the Ganga in the presence of two others, namely the resort manager and a friend of the suspect.