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Manipur: ITLF urges Kuki-Zo tribals to abstain from contesting Lok Sabha polls


GUWAHATI: In a significant development, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) in strife-torn Manipur urged the Kuki-Zo tribals on Monday to refrain from contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the state.

The ITLF, which has been the voice of the community throughout the ethnic conflict, however,advised the Kuki-Zo tribals to exercise their franchise.

"ITLF Presidential Council, in consultation with its constituent member tribes, has agreed that no member from the Kuki-Zo community should file nominations for the upcoming Lok Sabha election, considering the plight that we are facing," the ITLF said in a statement.

"As Indian citizens, we advise our community members to exercise their right to franchise by voting but abstain from contesting for the Outer Manipur seat," the statement further said.

The ethnic violence between Meiteis and Kukis, which broke out on May 3 last year, left 219 people dead and over 60,000 others displaced. The Election Commission said the displaced people, who are lodged in the relief camps, can vote at some special polling stations which will be set up in the relief camps.

Manipur has two Lok Sabha seats – Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur. The Outer Manipur seat is reserved for Scheduled Tribes. It is comprised of 28 of the state’s 60 Assembly segments. Twenty of the 28 Assembly seats are spread across Naga and Kuki hills. The remaining eight are located in the foothill areas of Meitei-majority Imphal Valley.

The Inner Manipur seat comprises 32 Assembly constituencies in the Imphal Valley.

The Outer Manipur seat is currently held by the Naga People’s Front (NPF), a party that originated in adjoining Nagaland. The NPF has fielded Timothy Zimik, a Naga, for the seat. The Congress has nominated former MLA Alfred K Arthur, who is also a Naga.

The BJP is not contesting the seat and has decided to support the NPF candidate. While the BJP is an ally of the NPF in Manipur, it is not in Nagaland. In the coalition government in Nagaland, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party and BJP are the two constituents.