Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday said he was open to discussing matters related to the Citizenship Amendment Act with anyone, including the protestors at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality, but any conversation would take place on merit, The Indian Express reported.

Since December 15, women in the predominantly Muslim locality have been sitting in a round-the-clock sit-in against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens. In the run-up to the Delhi elections, the BJP had tried to portray it as a referendum on the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act demonstrations, particularly the one at Shaheen Bagh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah criticised the protestors, with Modi alleging that the real agenda of the demonstrations was being obscured through the use of the Tricolour and Constitution as symbols.

“I want to say that they [Shaheen Bagh protestors] should ask for time from my office,” Shah said at the Times Now Summit in Delhi. “Within three days I will give time. I have said anyone I will meet, but nobody wants to discuss. A discussion will have to be done on merits.”

The home minister said people have a right to protest peacefully but violence is not justified. Shah said he supported the Delhi Police on its action at Jamia Millia Islamia University in December. “Delhi Police had gone running after those that burnt buses,” he added. “Nobody has the right to burn buses. The two things are different. Peacefully protesting, and burning buses, burning someone’s scooty, burning a car. Even those who own the vehicles have rights. To protect their rights, this government only has to do.”

The Delhi Police had been accused of using excessive force against students protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Jamia. On December 15, the police entered the college campus and fired tear gas shells into the building. Videos also showed the police beating up protesting students.

The BJP leader said the violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University last month was a different matter. “It was a movement for fee,” Shah added. “Movements on fee and on educational issues happen often. Only [JNU student leader] Aishe Ghosh was not hurt. Lots of people were hurt, people who you don’t even care to search for. There were two groups. The second group was also hurt...Law and order cannot be compared like this. Whatever way an andolan [protest] is conducted, police will have to react accordingly.”

A mob – allegedly comprising Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad members armed with sticks and hammers – attacked students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University on the evening of January 5, injuring at least 34 people. The outfit is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student wing. It has been close to 40 days now since the attack but no arrests have been made in the case.