The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum on Sunday urged members of the Kuki-Zo community in Manipur not to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

However, the umbrella body of the Kuki-Zo community encouraged its members to exercise their right to franchise by voting in the polls.

The tribal body said that its presidential council, in consultation with its constituent member-tribes, had agreed that Kuki-Zos should not file their nominations for the polls “considering the plight that [the community is] facing”.

“As Indian citizens, we advise our community members to exercise their right to franchise by voting but abstain from contesting from the Outer Manipur seat,” the tribal body said in a statement.

Manipur has been gripped by ethnic clashes between the tribal Kuki and the dominant Meitei communities since May. The violence has left 219 persons dead and displaced 60,000 people from their homes since May 3, according to figures released by the state government last month.

Polling for the Lok Sabha election in Manipur is scheduled in two phases, on April 19 and April 26.

The northeastern state has two Lok Sabha seats of which the Outer Manipur constituency is reserved for a candidate from the Scheduled Tribes. The seat is currently held by Lorho S Pfoze of the Naga People’s Front.

The party has given a ticket to former Indian Revenue Service officer Kachui Timothy Zimik for the seat this year. The Congress has given a ticket to former MLA Alfred KS Arthur.

On Friday, the Bharatiya Janata Party announced that it would extend its support to the candidate chosen for the seat by the Naga People’s Front.

A day later, the BJP office in the state’s Senapati district was vandalised by party workers. They said that the party’s decision not to field a candidate in Outer Manipur had denied an opportunity to one of its grassroots workers to represent the constituency in Parliament.

Allow voting on the basis of Aadhaar cards, say Kuki-Zomi-Hmar MLAs

On Saturday, MLAs from the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar community urged the Election Commission to allow voters who had been displaced in the state to cast their ballots on the basis of their Aadhaar cards or other valid identifying documents, as many of them are likely to have lost their voter IDs.

The MLAs, in a letter addressed to the chief election commissioner, said that the poll body had already notified arrangements for special polling stations at relief camps in the hill districts of Churachandpur and Kangpokpi.

It asked the poll body to set up stations in other areas of Manipur for those who had been displaced.

The letter added that many refugees had fled to different parts of the country and urged the Election Commission to direct other states and Union territories to identify them and ensure that arrangements are made for them to vote in the polls.