Bharatiya Janata Party councillor Ravinder Singh Negi has asked meat shops in his ward in East Delhi’s Vinod Nagar to be closed during the Hindu festival of Navratri even though no official order has been issued by the civic body.

A video on social media showed Negi telling a man to immediately remove the meat displayed outside his shop. Later, he asks the man to keep the shop closed during the festival, which is being celebrated from March 22 to March 30 this year.

In another video, Negi can be seen declaring that no meat shops will be allowed to remain open in his ward during Navratri.

Negi told The Indian Express that he took out a drive in view of Navratri and also because most of these meat shops have been running illegally.

“I did not use any force and calmly made them understand that they should shut their shops,” he added. “Religious sentiments of a certain section of people should not be hurt.”

One of the meat shop owners named Shadab, who has had his business running for over 10 years in the area, said that this was the first time such restrictions have been imposed.

“When the councillor asked me to shut my shop, I politely obliged and wrapped up my work before leaving,” he told The Indian Express. “This has never happened before, but I thought it is better not to escalate the situation.”

An unidentified shopkeeper said that some of them had decided to close their shops for a few days to “keep the atmosphere safe”.

Another shopkeeper, requesting anonymity, told The Indian Express that Negi’s directive was a double whammy since meat shops anyway do not incur much profit during the nine-day period of Navratri.

“The shops cannot be called illegal as we have all the required rent documents with us,” he added. “Most of us have been doing business here for years now.”

Last year, Mukesh Suryan, the former mayor of the erstwhile South Delhi Municipal Corporation and a BJP leader, had also sought the closure of meat shops during Navratri. In a letter to the South Delhi commissioner, the BJP leader had argued that such a move is only fitting since Hindu “religious belief and sentiments are also affected when they come across meat shops”.

Customers going to INA market in South Delhi to buy meat were later turned away even though Suryan’s letter was not a legal order. The Congress had described Suryan’s move as a cheap publicity stunt since the mayor can only give suggestions to the commissioner, who can later choose to issue orders.

Also read: Would a Delhi Navaratri meat ban stand up in court?