Mayor of Meerut, Harikant Ahluwalia, has announced that corporators of the Meerut Municipal Corporation will not be allowed to attend board meetings if they refuse to sing “Vande Mataram”. On Tuesday, Ahluwalia did not allow seven corporators to participate in a meeting allegedly after they refused to sing the song, The Indian Express reported on Thursday.

The seven councillors – all from the minority Muslim community – are believed to have left the session after some 90 corporators and civic body officials began to sing “Vande Mataram”. Once they returned, the mayor, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party, did not allow them to attend the proceedings. “Hindustan mein rehna hain, toh Vande Mataram kehna hain (If you want to live in India, you have to say Vande Mataram),” the other corporators are believed to have shouted after Ahluwalia announced his decision.

This was the first board meeting convened since the BJP formed the government in Uttar Pradesh. Earlier, corporators were allowed to leave the hall and return once the song was over, but the change of events on Tuesday led the Muslim board members to protest and cite a Supreme Court order that ruled it was not mandatory to sing “Vande Mataram”.

Ahluwalia passed the resolution making it mandatory after heated altercations followed the Muslims’ protest. “It is a way of showing respect to one’s motherland,” he said, he said according to The Times of India. The resolution will need the government’s approval before implementation.

“We have almost 90 corporators, of whom 18 are Muslims. Only a handful of people have an issue with Vande Mataram; the rest sing it,” the mayor told The Indian Express., adding that the corporators who had refused to sing “Vande Mataram” belonged to the Samajwadi Party. “Everyone at the session decided that those who boycott the national song should be boycotted. I just agreed with my people.”

Afzal Saifi, one of the councillors who was not allowed at the meeting, asserted that it was up to them to decide whether “we will sing it or not”, adding that they boycotted the session because the mayor was rude to them. He claimed his decision was supported by corporators Nawab Qureshi, Shahid Abbas and Deewan Shareef, among others.