Police have fired shots in the air and used tear gas in New Delhi as protests against India’s citizenship law spread across the country.

A peaceful march against what some argue is an Islamophobic immigration policy descended into chaos and violence over the weekend.

Police have been accused of an abuse of power after claims they dragged unarmed individuals across the floor and beat them with wooden sticks in protests at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University on Sunday.

Police face protesters gathered to demonstrate in New Delhi on Tuesday
Image: Police face protesters who gathered to demonstrate in New Delhi

Those protests have continued, with more demonstrations on Tuesday in the states of West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka.

The protests have been sparked by a new law called the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Footage of Indian police in New Delhi beating up students protesting against a new controversial law on citizenship has emerged.
Footage of Indian police beating students

This law entitles non-Muslims who are in the country illegally to citizenship if they can prove they face religious persecution in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It applies to Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities, but not Muslims.

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Protesters say it is anti-Muslim, may cause mass migration and is an attempt by Prime Minister Narenda Modi to make India a Hindu stronghold.

A policeman walks past a bus damaged by protesters
Image: A policeman walks past a bus damaged by protesters

The march over the weekend at the New Delhi university escalated, with demonstrators setting three buses on fire, and police applying force against the protesters. Video footage showed officers running after unarmed protesters and beating them with wooden sticks.

Dozens of students were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment.

The police denied accusations that they responded too harshly and say they acted with restraint.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Hanjala Mojibi, a student studying English at the predominantly Muslim school, said that when he and others saw police arrive they walked towards them with their hands up in the air.

Protests against the new law have taken place in states across the country
Image: Protests against the new law have taken place in states across the country

A tearful Mr Mojibi said: “The police made all 15 of us kneel and started beating us. They used lots of abusive words. One of them removed my prescription glasses, threw (them) on the ground, broke them and told me to look down.”

Elsewhere on Sunday at the Aligarh Muslim University in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, police fired tear gas and injured five people taking part in the protest, university spokesman Rahat Abrar said.

Shahid Hussain, a 25-year-old history student, said police broke the windows of his dormitory and threw a tear gas canister inside.

Mr Hussain said he escaped the building only for police to push him against a tree and beat him with sticks.

A burned bike and police barricade is pictured following the weekend's demonstrations
Image: A burned bike and police barricade are pictured following the weekend demonstrations

Police spokesman Sunil Bainsla denied the account and said the allegations were “lies”.

India is 80% Hindu and 14% Muslim. It has one of the largest Muslim communities of any country in the world.

Prime Minister Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party says the new law is a humanitarian gesture.

“This Act illustrates India’s centuries old culture of acceptance, harmony, compassion and brotherhood,” Mr Modi tweeted on Monday.