Hundreds of Kashmiris chanted anti-government slogans and hurled stones at police on Friday to protest a court ruling upholding a colonial-era law banning cow slaughter and the sale of beef in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir.

Police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse the protesters, who took to the streets after Friday prayers in mosques in Srinagar, Pulwama, Pattan and elsewhere in the region.

A court on Thursday ordered authorities to strictly implement the 1932 law making the slaughter of cows punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine. Indian authorities did not enforce the law for about seven decades.

Kashmir is mainly Muslim, while the majority of people in the rest of India are Hindus who hold cows sacred.

Kashmiri people largely prefer goat meat over beef, but poor people in villages eat beef because it costs less.

The court ruling came in response to a petition filed by a Hindu lawyer, Parimoksh Seth.

Government minister Imran Raza Ansari said the government is likely to appeal the court ruling. He said he saw no justification for such a ban.

Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader, said people should be able to eat what they like. "The court ruling has reinforced the colonial-era law without any regard to the sensitivities of the people of the region," he said.