Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Saturday said that only those people who were ready to say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” will be allowed to live in India, The Indian Express reported.

Pradhan said people like Bhagat Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose had sacrificed their lives for the country and wondered if the crores of people who fought for Independence did so so that “after 70 years after Independence, this country would discuss whether we should count our citizens or not”.

He was addressing the 54th state conference of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in Pune. The ABVP is the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

“Are we going to make our country a dharamshala now where anyone can roam freely,” he asked. “Should anyone who comes to this country be allowed to live here? We have to face this challenge. This point has to be made clear. In India, one will have to say Bharat Mata ki Jai. Only those people will be able to live here.” He added that most nations across the world had a provision for registering their citizens.

The comment came amid nationwide protests against the amended Citizenship Act and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, grants citizenship to six religious minority groups from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, provided they have lived in India for six years. The cut-off date is December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised and called discriminatory because it excludes Muslims.

The proposed National Register of Citizens, on the other hand, is an exercise to identify and distinguish undocumented immigrants from genuine Indian citizens.

The population register is linked to the census, due in 2021, and is described as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”. The Cabinet on Tuesday approved funds of Rs 3,900 crore to update the population register.