Ankita Bhandari murder protests mark ‘Gandhi Jayanti’ in Uttarakhand, accused sent to jail after police remand
Dehradun , Oct 2
‘Gandhi Jayanti’, the birth anniversary of’ Father of the Nation’ Mahatma Gandhi is a sombre occasion in the newly created state of Uttarakhand when during the agitation for a separate state of Uttarakhand, the then repressive police of Uttar Pradesh let out a reign of terror and violence on the statehood agitators move towards the national capital at Rampur Tiraha in Muazzafarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. Scores of agitators were killed, beaten up and women raped allegedly by the policemen on October 2, 1994. Since then, the martyrs of the statehood and those who suffered at Rampur Tiraha are remembered both officially and unofficially.
However, this year following the murder of Ankita Bhandari, a 19 year old girl by a son of a senior ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and RSS functionary, the state again saw the resolve of the common people, social and women organisations who observed a strike and held protest demonstrations throughout the state seeking justice for Ankita Bhandari and Jagdish Chander, a Dalit political activist who was murdered for marrying a girl of his choice belonging to upper caste on September 1, 2022 in Almora district of the state.
The people supporting the strike took out protest marches and appealed to the shopkeepers to shut their establishments in solidarity with their demands in Dehradun and other towns. Young students, and women took out a protest marching raising slogans demanding justice for deceased Ankita Bhandari at Srinagar Garhwal, today. Except ruling BJP, almost all the political and social organisations had extended their support to the strike call including Congress, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD), CPI, CPM, CPI(ML), Social Unity Centre of India (SUCI), AAP, Mahila Manch and Andolankari Manch.
Mukesh Semwal ,Secretary of Socialist unity centre of India (SUCI) and Indresh Maikhuri,Garhwal unit secretary of CPI(ML) have thanked the common masses in supporting the strike call. “ The bandh at Srinagar garhwal was complete and successful as people from all walks of life participated in the protest March,” said Mukesh Semwal. Indresh Maikhuri participated in a protest at Gairsain, the summer capital of the state where large number of women participated.
Ankita Bhandari hailing from Pauri Garhwal district was killed by Pulkit Arya, the owner of Vantara resort near Luxman Jhula area near Rishikesh on September 18,2022 when she refused to give ‘Special services” to some VIP clients. She had joined the resort owned by Pulkit Arya, who is son of Vinod Arya, a senior BJP leader and former RSS ‘Parcharak’, who had also enjoyed a ministerial rank position in the previous BJP state government led by another former RSS ‘Parcharak’ Trivendra Singh Rawat.
Ankita’s refusal and threat to expose the resort owner, infuriated him who threw her in Chilla canal to drown after beating her up. The revenue police refused to even write a complaint by the father of the deceased girl but after a hue and cry in social media, the case was transferred to regular police. The three alleged accused were apprehended by the police. Interestingly, the claims of the Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to demolish the resort was questioned as it amount to destroying the evidence to help the accused. The resort was also set aflame. Following the criticism of the move, which the Chief Minister has claimed in his tweet on September 22, 2022, a blame game has started amongst the district officials who are blaming each other for ordering the demolition.
The state government has set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a DIG to probe the case which in order to bail out the state government claimed that all the evidences have been collected from the resort.
Meanwhile, all the three accused namely Pulkit Arya, Ankit and Saurab after completion of their police remand were sent back to pauri jail in the evening on October 2, 2022. The police had sought three day police remand of the accused during which they were thoroughly questioned.
Pushpdeep, a friend of the deceased who was instrumental in taking up the issue of her disappearance was also called from his native place of Kathua district in Jammu and questioned. He had chats and voice recordings of the deceased oin which she had been telling Pushpdeep about the going ons in the resort and also attempt by Pulkit Arya to pressurise her into giving “special services” to a VIP guest.
According to police, Pulkit Arya and his accomplices planned the murder and also falsely claimed that the deceased threw his mobile phone in Chilla canal provoking him to threw her in the water. Pushpdeep had claimed that the phone of Pulkit arya was functional on the night of September 18, 2022 while, Ankita Bhandari had drowned at 9.30 pm. The technical surveillance of the phone also indicated that the phone was functioning on September 19, 2022. Confronted with these facts, Pulkit Arya reportedly confessed that one of his accomplice threw his phone in the canal the next day to create an alibi.