Massive anti-India protests and clashes erupted in India-held Kashmir after a top commander from the largest rebel group in the disputed region was killed in a gun battle with government forces on Saturday.

Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, head of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group, was killed in an overnight gunfight in Tral area, some 40 kilometres south of Kashmir's capital, Srinagar.

Hizbul Mujahideen is the largest indigenous rebel group fighting against Indian-rule in the Himalayan territory since an armed rebellion broke-out in 1989.

One of Bhat's fighters was also killed in the gun battle, which erupted late Friday after government forces cordoned off a village following an intelligence tip-off.

“Yes, both of them were gunned down and the operation is still going on,” police chief Shesh Pal Vaid told AFP.

As the violence raged, hundreds of angry residents chanting anti-India slogans marched in an attempt to help the trapped rebels escape.

Clashes between rock-throwing protesters and government forces erupted in different places in the area, with police and paramilitary soldiers firing shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop the protests.

As the news of the rebel leader's killing spread in the region, thousands of people, including students, took to the streets shouting “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom”. Traders shuttered shops and businesses across the Kashmir Valley, including in Srinagar. Officials said clashes were reported from over four dozen places in the region.

Police said hundreds of villagers tried to break the cordon by throwing rocks at security forces, resulting in clashes that left at least 10 injured.

Authorities suspended most internet services in the region a day after they lifted a monthlong ban on 22 social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter. The social media ban on April 26 came after videos depicting the alleged abuse of Kashmiris by Indian forces fueled widespread protests.

Bhat succeeded charismatic militant leader Burhan Wani after he was killed in a gunfight in July, which triggered months of anti-India protests in which nearly 100 people died.

Wani's popularity grew after he used social media to attract new recruits for his militant outfit.

On Saturday, in a separate incident, the Indian army said they had killed six militants who had infiltrated across the border from Pakistan in the Himalayan region.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir valley, one of the world's most heavily militarised areas, where most people favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Several armed rebel groups are fighting against Indian rule, with tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, killed in the nearly three decades-old conflict.