Ankita Bhandari (2003-2022) was the female receptionist of Vantara Resort in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. She was allegedly killed by Pulkit Arya, the son of the BJP leader Vinod Arya and owner of the Vantara Resort, on 18 September 2022. On 24 September 2022, Ankita’s body was recovered from the Chilla canal’s barrage, where the accused had dumped her.
Ankita Bhandari was born in 2003 (age 19 years; as of 2022) in Srikot, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand. Ankita studied at B R Modern School, Pauri, Pauri Garhwal, from class 4 to class 12. A bright student, Ankita scored 88 per cent marks in her class 12 examination.
After pursuing her class 12, Ankita pursued a diploma in hotel management and then started working at Vantara Resort as a receptionist.
Height (approx.): 5′ 3″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Ankita Bhandari’s father, Virendra Singh Bhandari, is a former security guard. Her mother, Soni Devi, is an Aanganwadi worker. She had an elder brother, Ajay Singh Bhandari, who works in a private firm in Delhi.
Ankita Bhandari began her career as a receptionist at Vantara Resort, Rishikesh, Uttrakhand, on 28 August 2022.
On 18 September 2022, Ankita Bhandari was allegedly killed by Pulkit Arya, the son of the BJP leader Vinod Arya and owner of the Vantara Resort in Rishikesh (where Ankita worked before her death), and two others. The two others suspected to be involved in the crime include resort manager Ankit, and Pulkit’s friend named Saurabh.
Her body was recovered from the Chilla canal’s barrage (where the accused had dumped her) on 24 September 2022.
Ankita’s post-mortem report by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences Rishikesh stated that she died of drowning. The report also said that the woman appeared to have sustained injuries suggestive of blunt force trauma before her death. Not satisfied with the provisional post-mortem report, Ankita’s parents denied performing her last rites until the final post-mortem report was released in the public. Talking about the same during a media conversation, Ankita’s father said,
Her last rites will not be performed until we get the final detailed report.”
However, the family relented after appeals from the local administration and the Chief Minister of Uttrakhand Pushkar Singh Dhami. Calling the incident ‘unfortunate’ Dhami assured the family that the trial would be held in a fast-track court and the strictest punishment will be given to the accused. He said,
In such times it is natural for people to be angry. The government will provide whatever assistance is required for the victim’s family. Police are working, they have done their work for making the arrests. Strictest punishment would be given for such heinous crimes, whoever the criminal be.”
On 25 September 2022, Ankita’s body was taken to the NIT Ghat of Srinagar and her body was consigned to flames by her brother amid the presence of a large number of people.
Many leading politicians from the state including Tirath Singh Rawat, a sitting Member of Parliament and former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, and Rajendra Bhandari, Congress MLA from Badrinath mourned her death and extended a helping hand to her family.
When Ankita’s family failed to reach her despite making several calls to her phone and at the hotel’s reception, they got worried and registered a missing complaint with the Revenue Police. Later, the case was transferred to the Laxman Jhula police. During the investigation, the police suspected Pulkit Arya’s, Ankit Gupta’s, and Saurabh’s hand in the murder and during the interrogation, the three accused admitted the crime and told the police that they have thrown Ankita in the Rishikesh Chila barrage. The culprits were soon taken into arrest. Apparently, soon after Ankita Bhandari joined Vantara Resort as a receptionist, she was being pressurised to provide special services to the hotel guests. Revealing the same during a media conversation, DGP Ashok Kumar said, “On the basis of the evidence received, it can be said that Ankita was being pressurised for providing ‘special service’ to the guests. There must have been a scuffle between them over the same after which this heinous crime was carried out.” On 18 September (the day when Ankita went missing), there was a dispute between Ankita and Pulkit over the same issue. According to some staff members of the hotel, both of them were fighting with each other in a loud voice. Later, the hotel manager Ankit Gupta calmed Ankita down. Soon, the three of them left the hotel premises on a two-wheeler. Apparently, they were joined by Pulkit’s friend Saurabh Bhaskar. During the interrogation, the three accused confessed that On the way, there was an altercation with Ankita after which they pushed her into the canal. The three of them returned to the resort and told the staff a different story. Soon after the police arrested the three, the authorities started the process of demolition of Vanatara Resort and it was said that it was being carried out on the orders of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. Later, in a tweet, Dhami said that the resort was being demolished as it was illegally-built. However, Ankita’s family believed that the demolition may have been an attempt to destroy the evidence. After Pulkit accepted his crime, his father and brother Vinod Arya and Ankit Arya, respectively, were sacked from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Moreover, Ankit was removed from the position of vice-chairman of the State OBC Welfare Commission.
Viral Whatsapp Chat
Post her death, Ankita’s Whatsapp chat with one of her Jammu-based friends went viral on the internet in which Ankita talked about Pulkit Arya coercing her into prostitution. In one of the Whatsapp messages, Ankita wrote, “They are trying to turn me into a prostitute…I may be poor, but I won’t sell myself for Rs 10,000.” In the chat, she also talked about how Pulkit once tried to forcibly kiss her in a drunken state. Further, she told him that a guest (Pulkit’s friend) hugged her and asked her to provide special services to him. According to her chats, Ankita was threatened by the owner of the resort that she would be fired from her job if she refused to give in to the demands of Pulkit Arya.
On 23 September 2022, when the police arrested the three accused in the case, the locals in Rishikesh staged demonstrations and protested against Ankita’s murder. Many civilians gheraoed and leaned onto the police vehicle in an attempt to confront the murderers. Some people even tried to beat the accused.
A huge crowd, compromising students, political activists, and common people gathered outside the mortuary of the base hospital (where her body was kept) on 25 September 2022, where they were seen protesting Ankita’s murder.
The crowd then held sit-in protests, blocking the Badrinath-Rishikesh highway. They demanded the hanging of Ankita’s killers, stranding vehicles on both sides of the highway. Several rallies were also conducted by people of Uttrakhand demanding strict action against the three accused. The locals showed solidarity and kept the markets closed in Srinagar, Pauri Garhwal, ahead of Ankita’s funeral.
- Ankita not only remained the school topper during her class 12 but also received the Best Student Award for the Business Studies subject.
- According to some sources, her family persuaded Ankita to work as a receptionist as they were not financially stable.
- Ankita was fondly called Sakshi by her family members and close friends.
- Apparently, Ankita wanted to resign from her job at the Vantara Resort soon after the hotel owner asked her to provide special services to the VIP guests. She was looking for a job at some other hotels before her demise.
- During a media conversation, one of Ankita’s close friends revealed that the owner and manager of the Vantara Resort were mounting pressure on her to provide ‘special services’ to some clients. The owner even offered her Rs. 10,000 in exchange for it. However, she denied it, Ankita said that although she was poor, she wouldn’t sell herself for Rs. 10,000.
- Apparently, a few hours before her murder, Ankita had called the chef of the Vantara Resort and had asked him to hand her over her bag to a specific location near the resort. However, when the chef, after completing his duties, went to the location, he could not find Ankita.