Srinagar: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Friday said a political solution, not jobs, was needed to solve the Kashmir problem as curfew continued in the tense valley with sporadic clashes despite strict security restrictions.
Facing one of the gravest security and political challenges in his 18 months of governance, Abdullah said the situation was "better" but "far from normal" in the Muslim-dominated valley where 11 people have been killed in the firing by security forces on stone pelting mobs protesting alleged human rights violations.
He said economic packages and development alone could not meet the aspirations of the people of the state but the issue needed a political solution.
"The aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be assuaged only by development, good governance and economic packages but needs a political solution," Abdullah said in a statement.
The Chief Minister said he was "not averse to move beyond" his National Conference`s demand of autonomy for the state -- a governance set up where only three departments viz defence, foreign affairs and currency would be managed by India.
"I am not averse to move beyond it, if there is a solution other than autonomy that is acceptable to both India and Pakistan and meets the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
In a separate TV interview, the Chief Minister said: "The crux of the Kashmir issue lies in politics, it`s not about jobs, roads and bridges and governance. The (central) government has to find a solution through meaningful talks. It takes two hands to clap, separatists need to respond and the Indian government needs to take the dialogue to a meaningful point."
With protests continuing even under strict curfew, the chief minister made a fresh appeal for peace to pacify anger on streets.
"I have always been an advocate of peace. Death under any circumstances is a sad affair and death of youngsters has saddened me most. I appeal to all the people of Jammu and Kashmir to rise above political affiliations and ideologies, come together and work with us to ensure that order and peace are restored."
The Chief Minister`s second appeal in three days comes as thousands of people shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans held protests at many places after the Friday afternoon prayers.
In Kupwara, according to eyewitnesses, thousands of men and women tried to march in a procession to the district headquarters from Trehgam village.
But police intervened and used teargas and baton charges to disperse the protestors in which 20 people, including eight policemen, were injured.
Curfew was relaxed in north Kashmir Sopore town for two hours for the first time in past one week.
A police spokesman said people came out of their homes during the break to buy essential items.
But some youth threw stones at police prompting them to use tear smoke canisters and batons to disperse the mob in the Shankargund village near Sopore. Five people were injured.
Abdullah didn`t discount that mainstream political parties were fomenting the trouble and accused that kins of unnamed leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were also involved in the recent tension.
"Kashmir is a tricky melting pot. I won`t discount the involvement of sections of mainstream polity of Kashmir. The PDP leaders` sons are actively involved in recent tension, I have credible information," he said.
Abdullah said it was "unfair" to blame the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for the trouble entirely. "To say this would be unfair. There have been incidents where excessive use of force has given rise to public anger, but blaming just the CRPF will be too simplistic."