Senior BJP leader Vinod Arya's son, Pulkit Arya, has been arrested for the murder of a 19-year-old woman who worked as a receptionist at a resort he owns near Rishikesh, in Pauri district, Uttarakhand. He had reported her missing on Monday, as did her family, but police said it later turned out he, along with two staff members, had killed her. Those two have been arrested too.
The woman's family had already been suspecting Pulkit Arya's role, particularly because he was not aiding the probe.
The body was recovered from a canal, news agency ANI reported, adding that her relatives were called for identification. Police are probing the motive amid allegations of inaction "because the accused's father belongs to the state's ruling party BJP and RSS".
Police acted swiftly once the news went viral on social media yesterday and fingers were pointed at Pulkit Arya, whose father Vinod Arya currently holds a state minister's rank without a post in the government. Vinod Arya earlier served as a minister and remained chairperson of Uttarakhand Mati Kala Board, a government organisation for pottery promotion. Pulkit's brother Ankit Arya is a BJP leader too.
State police chief Ashok Kumar sought to explain: "The area where this resort, Vanantra, is located doesn't fall under regular police. We have a system of patwari (land revenue official) registering FIRs in such areas. He did register a 'missing person' FIR, filed by the resort owner himself." The resort is about 10 km from main town Rishikesh.
"Yesterday the District Magistrate transferred the case to us, and we have worked it out within 24 hours. The resort owner turned out to be the accused, along with two others. Further investigation is on," the police chief said.
There are allegations that the teenager was being forced into prostitution, but police have not said that.
Civic authorities carried out demolition at the resort overnight following the orders of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. News agency ANI reported that the Chief Minister has also asked district magistrates to investigate all the resorts of the state.
When the men were arrested today, protesting locals surrounded the police vehicle and assaulted them before the cops managed to take them away.
Opposition Congress has said cops were slow "because of his links with the RSS-BJP". "It's horrific. When the girl went missing on September 18, why did the police register the FIR on September 21?" said state Congress spokesperson Garima Mehra Dasauni, "Till when will this brazen misuse of power by BJP and RSS leaders continue?"
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami promised "the harshest action" no matter who's involved. "This is a very sad incident, a very heinous crime. The police have done all the work regarding the arrest. The harshest action will be taken. Whoever the culprit is, will not be spared," he told reporters.
Besides Pulkit Arya, resort manager Saurabh Bhaskar and assistant manager Ankit Gupta have been arrested. "Initially, they tried to mislead the police, but when interrogated sternly they confessed to the crime," a police officer from Pauri added.