Days after the body of a 19-year-old receptionist was found near a canal in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, autopsy reports of the victim reveal no signs of rape. The victim, Ankita Bhandari, was allegedly killed by the resort owner and two of his accomplices.
The main accused, the owner of the Vanantara resort Pulkit Arya, is the son of former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vinod Arya, who was expelled by the party when his son's name cropped up in the case. The matter is rolling into a political slugfest for the BJP with the Congress raising the issue repeatedly during its Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Here are the top developments in the case:
Rs 25 Lakh for Ankita Bhandari's kin
Bhandari (19) worked as a receptionist at a resort in Yamkeshwar of Pauri district. She was allegedly killed by resort owner Pulkit Arya and his two accomplices near Rishikesh for refusing to provide "special services" to the guests. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Wednesday announced a financial assistance of Rs 25 lakh to the family of Bhandari, whose killing has sparked public outrage in the state. He also assured her family that the case would be heard in a fast track court and that the killers will get exemplary punishments.
Death due to drowning, no rape
A panel of four doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Rishikesh conducted the post-mortem and have in its report that she died due to drowning. According to the autopsy, drowning led to her death, there were injury marks on her elbow, back and fingers apparently because of being dragged on the floor and she was not raped. The revelation came after doubts regarding her death by drowning even though her body was not bloated when it was found after being in water for six days.
Since Bhandari's death, reports of an alleged restitution racket have surfaced after her murder investigation led to Whatsapp messages between Bhandari and her friends in which she reported that she was allegedly being asked to perform sexual favours for special guests. Screenshots of the victim's messages that have now gone viral show Bhandrai telling her friend that she had been offered Rs 10,000 for performing special favours, an offer that Bhandari allegedly turned down. According to a report in The Times of India, a couple of staffers have told the investigating SIT that the resort was used for all sorts of illegal activities such as drug use and prostitution.
Questions over 'premature' demolition
There have been allegations from various quarters about the destruction of evidence in the murder case by an overnight razing of parts of the resort at Bhogpur in Pauri district.
Doubts have also been raised regarding the quick demolition of the resort a day after Bhandar's body was found whch might have resulted in the loss of evidence. Former Uttarakhand DGP Aloke B Lal has said the hurry in the demolition of the resort in question must have destroyed crucial evidence.
Claims of the overnight destruction causing damage to evidence have been going viral on social media as well. The doubts about possible destruction of evidence deepened after news reports of the mattresses of rooms that had been put on fire allegedly by an angry mob of locals were found floating in a pool in the resort.
Keeping speculation to rest, however, Pauri District Magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande said on Tuesday that no evidence related to the case was destroyed when the illegally-built portions of the Vanantara resort were demolished following the incident.
Questions have also been raised about the 'VIP' Guest in the murder case, the one to whom Bhandari was asked to provide "special services".
A fend of the victim whom Bhandari had been in contact with through WhatsApp reportedly said that Bhandari had been asked on the night of September 18 to give a "massage" to a special guest who would be coming the night after. Bhandari was reportedly killed the same night.
Questions have been asked about the identity of the "VIP guest" and why he is yet to be brought under the ambit of the probe.
Politics over Bhandari's death
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had on Sunday attacked the BJP saying crime and arrogance have become synonymous with the ruling party. On Wednesday, he observed a moment of silence for the victim on Day 20 of the Bharat Jodo Yatra and said that the BJP did not respect women.
(With inputs from PTI)