LONDON - Human rights group Amnesty International has called the flogging of Muslim men by police in the western Indian state of Gujarat “a serious human rights violation” that shows “utter disrespect towards the law”.

A video of the incident that took place on Tuesday in Udhela village of Gujarat’s Kheda district went viral on social media. It showed several Muslim men tied to a pole and beaten with a stick by policemen in civilian clothing, as a crowd that included women and children cheered.

The men, accused by the police of throwing stones at a Hindu religious event, were told to apologise to the crowd after the flogging and then bundled into a police van. “The Gujarat police’s use of striking devices such as lathis [sticks] to beat Muslim men who were tied to a pole by the police themselves is a serious human rights violation and shows their utter disrespect towards rule of law,” Amnesty said in a tweet on Wednesday.

“We remind the Gujarat Police that punishment is never a legitimate objective for a law enforcement action, even if using less lethal weapons. In this case, it blatantly ignored the guiding principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and accountability.”

Gujarat is one of India’s most polarised states, with religious riots in 2002 killing what some sources estimate to be more than 2,000 people, most of them Muslims. Religious tensions in India have heightened since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the country in 2014.