Dozens of lawyers, many with links to India's ruling nationalist party, have clashed with protesters demanding the release of a student leader arrested under India's colonial-era sedition laws.

Tuesday's clashes took place a day ahead of a court hearing for Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the students' union at the country's premier Jawaharlal Nehru University. Kumar has been in prison since Friday.

At least one reporter said that the lawyers beat him up and broke his cellphone.

Kumar is accused of sedition for participating in events where slogans against India allegedly were shouted along with criticism of the 2013 secret hanging of a Kashmiri separatist convicted of an attack on Parliament.

The lawyers waved Indian flags and chanted patriotic slogans.