SRINAGAR: In a bid to prevent the simmering rage from imploding, authorities on Wednesday banned nearly two dozen social media websites, including Facebook and Twitter, in Kashmir, even as at least 20 students were injured in fresh protests.

Hundreds of students, including girls, took out demonstrations in Shopian and Pulwama districts of the restive southern Kashmir against the last week's assault on students which forced the precautionary closure of some educational institutions in the summer capital Srinagar.

Witnesses said the demos soon boiled into anti-India and pro-freedom protests after police and paramilitary forces deployed in strength in these areas stopped students from marching on the roads, sparking clashes during which students resorted to intense stone pelting.

In retaliation, witnesses said, forces used pellets, teargas and batons to disperse the protesters. Sources said at least 20 students were injured in Pulwama and Shopian districts with one student suffering pellet injuries in foot.

"At one place, police, chasing students, gate-crashed into a school where fierce clashes broke out and pellets were fired".

"More than two dozen police and paramilitary force personnel suffered injuries while dealing with stone-throwing mobs in some places of south Kashmir," a senior police officer said.

Protests were also held by students at Ganderbal, Bijbehara and Pampore but they remained largely peaceful.

Tempers are high in the Valley against the spate of civilian killings during anti-India and pro-freedom protests that increased in frequency after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter at a south Kashmir village on July 8 last year.

The trigger for the latest protests came on April 9 when bypoll was held on Srinagar Lok Sabha seat and eight civilians were killed during clashes with government forces, sparking a wave of anger which culminated in anti-India protests and shutdown for many days in the region.

After the government forces assaulted a group of students earlier this month, many of them girls, at a college in Pulwama, the Valley's educational institutions have now been overwhelmed by protests, a completely new phenomenon of 'student uprising' in the 28-year old insurgency.

Meanwhile, the state government Wednesday banned 22 social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and instant messaging applications like Whatsapp for a month to prevent forces "inimical to public order and tranquillity" from "disturbing peace" following widespread anti-India and pro-freedom protests, an order issued by the government said.

The ban came a day after the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti chaired the meeting of the top decision making body on matters of security, Unified Headquarters, first since last year's civilian uprising, to chart out a roadmap for "preventing more civilian killings" and restoring normalcy.

At a function in north Kashmir's Baramulla, Lt Gen JS Sandhu, the Army's top commander in the Valley and chief of 15 Corps said the situation in the Valley is "grim", "It is a matter of concern. We will have to kill militants but we need cooperation of people. I want to assure you that for the last few months, we have been taking action against the militants to a great deal and we will continue doing so".

Earlier this week, after meeting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she had said the Centre is open to dialogue with the Hurriyat but that talks can't be held in the prevailing atmosphere of bullets and stone throwing. She had added that the situation will improve in the Valley in next two to three months.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)