Amid protests by thousands across Uttarakhand, family cremates murder victim

Victim’s father had earlier refused to perform the last rites as he alleged that the resort of the accused was demolished only to destroy evidence; Congress demands justice for the family

September 25, 2022 09:41 pm | Updated September 26, 2022 09:31 am IST - New Delhi

Family members and relatives of Ankita Bhandari during her cremation at ITI Ghat, at Srinagar in Pauri Garhwal district, on September 25, 2022.

Family members and relatives of Ankita Bhandari during her cremation at ITI Ghat, at Srinagar in Pauri Garhwal district, on September 25, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Ankita Bhandari,  who was murdered by a BJP leader’s son in Uttarakhand, was cremated on Sunday evening in a day of protests across Uttarakhand. The father of the deceased woman questioned the government’s decision to demolish the resort of the accused, and termed it “destruction of evidence”.

The police said no stone had been left unturned to get the accused the “harshest punishment”.

“The police’s bulldozer action has tampered with the evidence. Also, we are not satisfied with the post-mortem report of our daughter. I also demand the fast-track trial of the accused. Only after all this, we will cremate our daughter,” Virendra Bhandari, father of the victim, had earlier told presspersons.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi took to Twitter, and said that the girl’s kin were asking why “evidence is being destroyed”.

“A heart-wrenching incident happened with Ankita of Uttarakhand. But even after such a big incident, the administration is restricting itself to action just for show. Just imagine what Ankita’s parents might be going through,” Ms. Vadra tweeted.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi condoled the departed soul and criticised the BJP government at the same time. “Crime and arrogance have become synonymous with BJP. No embarrassment, no words, just silence, the Prime Minister’s message is clear — women should not expect anything from me,” Mr. Gandhi wrote.

Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat also attacked the government and said that it was taking action just to “pacify the mob” and not to get justice for the girl. “The government should clear its stand that why Patwari (revenue police) took so long to act. It should also make clear why police haven’t sought remand of the accused. I also learnt that there was no female doctor in the panel that conducted the post mortem of daughter Ankita,” Mr. Rawat said.

Additional Superintendent of Police Kotdwar Shekhar Suyal denied claims that any evidence had been destroyed. “No evidence has been destroyed. Our team has done videography of all rooms. We have collected forensic and scientific evidences. We have enough evidence to prove that the accused are guilty,” Mr. Suyal said.

Uttarakhand Director-General of Police Ashok Kumar called the family and assured them justice after a video of the girl’s father refusing to cremate her went viral. The DGP had also posted the recording of the conversation on his social media handle.

The protests have kept the police on their toes. The Rishikesh-Badrinath national highway was blocked by protesters for several hours. Huge crowds also gathered at the police station and outside the mortuary Thousands of people from across the State attended the cremation.

Amid the protests, the BJP on Saturday expelled the father and older brother of the main accused from the party. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami also removed the older brother from the post of nominated Vice-Chairman of the State’s Other Backward Classes Commission.

The action came a day after Uttarakhand Police arrested Pulkit Arya, son of Vinod Arya, who Minister of State under the previous BJP government headed by Trivendra Singh Rawat, for allegedly murdering Ankita Bhandari, a worker at his resort. Ankita went missing from duty on September 18, the police said. Resort manager Saurabh Bhaskar and assistant manager Ankit Gupta were also arrested.

Police claimed that the arrested have admitted to the murder and also identified the crime scene.

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