7.1 - McGregor Katharine E ‘Confronting the Past in...

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Unformatted text preview: McGregor, Katharine E. ‘Confronting the Past in Contemporary Indonesia: The Anti-Communist Killings of 1965—66 and the role of the Nahcllatul Ulama’, Critical Asian Studies (June 2009), pp. 195—224. COM MONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA Copyright Regulations 1 969 Warning This material has been reproduced and communicated to you by or on behalf of the University of Melbourne pursuant to Part VB of the Copyright Act 1968 (the Act). The material in this communication may be subject to copyright under the Act. Any further copying or communication of this material by you may be the subject of copyright protection under the Act. Do not remove this notice Contributors Elena \i Barabantseva, a British Inter-University China Centre research fellow, teaches and does research on contemporary China at the University of Manchester where she completed her PhD in politics in 2006. Her research interests include the Chinese na- tion-state, links between development and nationalism, Chinese ethnic politics, and the role of marginal groups in the Chinese national idea. Email: E.\[email protected]— chester.ac.uk. Jamie 5. Davidson is assistant professor of political science at the National University of Singapore. He has researched on the politics of ethnic violence, corruption, and infra- structure development in indonesia. He is author of From Rebellion to Riots: Collective Violence on Indonesian Borneo (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008). Email: [email protected] nus.edu.sg. Critical Asian Studies E Roufledge 41:2 (2909). 195—224 Taylor 6- Francis Group CONFRONTING THE PAST IN CONTEMPORARY INDONESIA I The Anticommunist Killings of 1965—66 and the Role of the Nahdlatul UIama Channapha Khamvongsa is the projectdirector of Legacies of War (Wlegaciesofwar. org), an organization working to resolve the problem of unexploded cluster bombs in Laos. to provide space for healing the wounds ofwar, and to create greater hope for a fu- ture of peace. The organization uses art, culture, education, and community organizing to bring people together to create healing and transformation out of the wreckage of war. Previously she worked at the Ford Foundation in its Peace and SocialJustice Unit. She was born in Vientiane, Laos, and has lived in the United States for over thirty years She received her master‘s degree in public policy from Georgetown University. Email: [email protected] Katharine E. McGregor is a senior lecturer in Southeast Asian history at the University ofMelbourne, Australia. Her research to date has centered on the themes oflndonesian hisroriography, history memory, and violence. She published her first book,Histr)ry in (Inform.- Militarjr Ideology and the Construction of the Indonesian Past in 2007' with Singapore: Asian Studies Association ofAustralia, in conjunction with National Univer- sity of Singapore Press, lClTLVI and University of Hawai‘i Press. Email: [email protected] unimclbcduau. Katharine E. McGregor Stig Toft Madsen earned his doctorate (Flinn) in sociology from Lund University. He has worked at the Center for International Development Studies, Roskilde University, in the Department ofAnthrOpology, Copenhagen University; and with the NLAS—Nordic in- stitute ofAsian Studies, He is currently assistant director, SASNET—Swedish South Asian Studies Network, and guest teacher in Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University. Email: [email protected] ABSTRACT: The collapse of authoritarian regimes and the emergence of new demo- cratic Spaces hold the promise of an opportunity to redress instances of past vio- lence. Confronting violent pasts is never an easy task, however. especially when dif- ferent interest groups stand to lose from such a process. This article explores the role of Indonesia's largest lslamic organizatiOH1 Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in the 1965 killings and shifting views about this past within the NU today. It examines the dra- matic move in 2000 ofyoung members of the NU to confront this past and to try to improve relations between members of the NU and former leftists. The article fo- cuses on the reasons for the emergence of Syarikat (Masyarakat Santri untuk Advokasi Rakyat, Muslim Community for Social Advocacy), the nongovernmental organization behind this reconciliation effort. and on respOnses to its work. As Syarikat's experience shows, combining the dual goals of societal peace and histori- cal revision has not been an easy task. In its efforts to reinterpret the past, Syarikat is trying to accomplish two somewhat antagonistic objectives: (1) rebutting dominant versions ofhistory and raising awareness about the suffering offormer political pris- oiiers, and (2) producing a version of the past that senior members of the NU can live with. Its decision to confront one ofthe most delicate topics in the history ofthc NU has had a mixed reception and these responses help us measure the extent of the NU’s commitment to reform and tolerance. Kenneth Bo Nielsen is a social anthropologist and research fellow at the Centre for De’ velopmcnt and the Environment, University of Oslo. He has worked on urban youth in Kolkata, and is currentiy completing his doctoral thesis on contemporary social m0ve- merits in ruralWest Bengal. His latest publication is "Not on Our Land! Peasants’ Struggie against Forced Land Acquisition in India’s West Bengal," in Dan Banik, ed, Rightsandi'.e— gal Empowerment in. Eradicming Poverty (Ashgate, 2008). Email: [email protected] mono. Elaine Russell is the author ol‘ nonfiction and fiction {or adults and children. She has a degree in history and an MA in economics, and has worked as an energy and environ- mental consultant for many years She traveled to Laos in 2005 for research on a nevel about a Hmong immigrant family. She is a member ofthe steering committee of Legacies ofWar, an organization workng to resolve the problem of unexploded 0rd nance in Laos. Email: [email protected] ' unto-Man. {AM J elin O’Hara slavick is a distinguished professor of art at the Universitny North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her M FA in photography from the School of the Art Institute ofChicago and her BA in poetry. photography, and art history from Sarah Lawrence Col- lege. Slavick has exhibited her work in Hong Kong. Canada. France, Italy, Scotland, Eng- land, Cuba. the Netherlands, and across the United States. She is the author of Bomb after Bomb: A Violent Cartography (Charm. 2007'), with a foreword by Howard 211111. Email: [email protected] Following the 50 September Movement against the top army leadership in 1965. the Indonesian military directed the killings of members of the Indone- sian Communist Party (PKI) and its affiliated organizations, of military men sym- lSSN7l4fi7-2715 printi‘l472-6033 oniine 102/000195—30 ©2l‘ri‘ifi5nc 1301: 10.1030914672710902809351 CriticaiAsian Studies 41 :2 (2009) .7 s- 9\11,¢gg~s' Sulchan, a former member of Banser (pictured here in front of his mosque in Bangil, Indor nesia, on 12 September 2003), said that the order to kill communists came through Is- lamic clerics within the NU. In a series of interviews with The Associated Press, Sulchan revealed details of his participation in some of the worst atrocities of the twentieth centUry, with up to half a million people killed in a U.S.-backed communist purge that swept dicta- tor Suharto into power in 1965. See Deutsch 2008, {AP Photofl'risnadil pathetic to the PK], and of Sukarno supporters. The violence spanned the archipelago, but was particularly intense injava, Bali, and Sumatra, and resulted in approximately halfa million deaths. The largest Islamic organization in Indo- nesia and the world, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU, meaning awakening of the ulama, or religious scholars), supported this violence and some of its members also participated in the killings. For the duration of the military-dominated New Order regime (196598), there was little public expression of sympathy for the victims of this violence including hundreds of thousands of people who were imprisoned following the incident. Instead, in a tightly controlled political envi- ronrnent, the Indonesian government continued to warn of the dangers of com- munism. Members of the NU represented. and sometimes celebrated, their participation in this violence as service to the nation. Together with the Indone- sian military theyhad a joint interest in defending the killings and sustaining the cornerstone of New Order ideology, anticornmunism. A major reform and democratization movement driven by students, intellec- tuals, and activists — known as reformsi — began in the late 19905 and cli- maxed with the resignation of President Suharto in 1998. It was in this new era ofdemocratic transition that some young members ofthe NU formed an organi- zation named Syarikat (Masyarakat Santri untuk Advokasi Rakyat, Santri Society for People’s Advocacy) aimed specifically at reexamining the NU’s role in the vi‘ olence of 1965—66 and improving relations between members of the NU and former leftists. Syarikat launched a cemmunity-based program called “Reconcil- iation and Rehabilitation for Victims of 1965." but its efforts were not universally 1 96 Critical Asian Studies 41:2 (2009) ;:u;x.-;Hsm~sn-.u-u- n-.. J welcomed. The dramatic difference in opinions within the NU on how to deal with this past in a new more democratic era makes the 1965—66 killings an inter- esting case study for examining how societies and more specifically religious communities deal with the legacies ofviolence in postauthoritarian contexts.1 This article begins by examining the NU’s support for and participation in the 1965—66 killings and the commemoration of this role in NU publications in the " New Order period. 1 then turn to analyzing the significant reform movement within the NU that spurred the formation of Syarikat. One of the most difficult issues Syarikat has had to negotiate is how to marry the goals of societal peace and historical revision. Through an analysis of Syarikat’s history projects I probe the limits of historical revision as an aspect of reconciliation projects. Finally 1 reflect on responses to Syarikat’s decision to confront one of the most delicate topics in the history of the NU. Syarikat‘s activities parallel those of nongov- ernmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements in other countries to confront past injustices in the spirit of democratic reform and a new commit- ment to human rights. At the same time, however, they have faced specific chal- lenges due to their institutional links and growing trend toward conservatism within Indonesian Islam and a backlash against liberal lslam, interpretations of islam that seek to counter literalist versions of Islam. Background to the Violence and the Role of the Nahdlatul Ulama Early in the hours of 1 October 1965, members ofan armed group calling itself the 30 September Movement (0303) kidnapped and killed six anny generals and one lieutenant general, dumping their corpses in an unused well at Lubang Buaya in liastjakarta. In the latest scholarly interpretation of the coup attempt, John Roosa argues that sections ofthe PK] (Partai Kornunis Indonesia, Commw nist Party oflndonesia), such as the Special Bureau led by Sjam Kamaruzzaman and directed by PK] chairman D.N . Aidit played a role in the coup plot, but insti- tu tionally the party was not involved.2 Some members of affiliated PKI these or- ganizations such as the Pemuda Rakyat (People‘s Youth) were reportedly on standby to mobilize for some kind of action, but they were unaware of the planned action against the military.’ Roosa titles his work PrerexrforMass Mur- der; arguing that the military, with Western backing, were looking for a pretext to Crush the PM. In the context of fears of the spread of communist influence worldwide and competition with the Soviet Union for spheres ofinfluence, the United States was particularly concerned about President Sukarno’s increasing accommodation of the PKI. In the 19605 the Nahdlatul Ulama was an active political party and it was wary ofthc PK]. By 1964, President Sukarno sided with the PICI on all major domestic 1. There is very little research on the topic of Islamic communities and related projects ofrecon- ciliation. Abu-Nimcr attribules this to an emphasis in Western scholarship in particular on Ihe connections between Islam and violence. Abu-Nimer 2003, 185. 2. Roosa 2006‘ 205. 3. ll)id., 220. McGregor I Confronting the Past 19 7 issues including, for example, a decision against a merger of all political parties into one (which would have severely hurt the PKI) and support for the acceler- ated enforcement of the land reform programs.4 More militant members of the NU became increasingly discontented with the PKI and expressed alarm at the growth in party membership to an estimated 5 million in the early 19605. In 1962, members of the NU‘s youth wing, Ansor, responded by fOunding Banser (Barisan Serbaguna, Multipurpose Brigade), an armed wing, in preparation for confrontation with the PKI.‘ Prior to the 1965 coup attempt, members of Banser had already clashed with membersof the PIG-affiliated Indonesian Peasants’ Front (Barisan Tani Indone— sia, BTI) in land reform actions especially in Eastjava.6 Following lags in govern- - ment implementation of land reform based on the 1959 Crop Sharing Law and the 1960\Basic Agrarian Law, the PKI called for peasants to begin to implement their own land reforms.7 In addition to antagonism over land reform, NU mem- bers who lived through the 19605 and some of their children continue to claim in interviews that they were mocked by the PKI in references to the hiai (Islamic religious leaders) as one of the seven village devils due to their land holdings. "Seven village devils” was a term the PKI used in its propaganda to denote forces deemed to be detrimental to the people‘s interests. In addition NU members re- call that members of LEICRA (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat, People‘s Cultural In- stitute). the cultural wing of the PKI, frequently performed an insulting Java- nese folk theater performance entitled Matinya Gustaf Allah (The Death of God).8 These NU members also cite several larger incidents preceding the 1965 coup attempt as cases of PK] provocation. One example they offer is the Kanigoro episode of January 1965 in which members of the communist-affili— ated youth group Pemuda Rakyat (People’s Youth) and the indonesian Peas- ants' Front attacked an Islamic service held in a pesarztren (Islamic boarding school) in Kanigoro in the Blitar regency of East java. Members of the People’s YOuth disrupted the service led by a member of the banned Islamic parry Masyumi and defiled the Qu‘ran.9 When the 30 September 1965 coup attempt occurred, young NU militants urged the leadership to quickly back the Indonesian army in blaming the com— munists for the coup attempt and calling for a ban on the party.” The NU was one of the first organizations after the coup attempt to stand Openly against the communists, despite President Sukarno‘s refusal to condemn those behind the 50 September Movement. In their official statement on 5 October 1965, the leaders of the NU Party inJakarta stated that those involved in the coup attempt must be “quicklyeliminated down to the roots to safeguard the path ofthc revo- liauswcdell 1973, 129. Fealy 1998, 512—15. hid.. 320—25. See Mortimer 1972, 26-53. 48—55. Author interviews with Kiai Abdullah Faqih. I'ubun, 2”- February 2005: GUS MiikSilmi Kalliri- 29 February 2008; and Yusuftlzisyim‘s family. Jumbang, 29 February 2008. 9. Sulistyo 2000, 159—43. 10. Fealy 1998, 528—32. 198 Critical Asian Studies 41:2 (2009) r1 as" ex .00 lution.”ll In the statement they requested that President Sukarno and leaders of the military ban the PIG, the People’s Youth, Gerwani (Indonesian Women’s Movement), Sobsi (Indonesian Workers‘ Union), and others who planned or participated in the 30 September Movement.12 From around Indonesia, branches of the NU and its affiliated organizations, Petanu (NU Farmers’ Unio'h), Sarbumusi (Workers Union), Muslimat (NU‘S wom en's wing), and Fatayat (the young women's wing of the NU), all produced let- ters of support for the campaign to ban the Communist Party. On 50 October, Ansor instructed all members to heighten their vigilance and “help ABRI {the military] in any way they could to restore order, guard the unity of the nation and save the revolution."13 The instruction also stated that in efforts to crush the 30 September Movement, members of Ansor should wait and only carry out the instructions from the NU coordinators who had already been assigned at the na- tional level and who would be selected in the regions by leaders of the party.“ This last instruction alludes to the intention of the central Ansor leadership to coordinate this campaign closely. It is difficult to find direct instructions from the NU calling upon its members to assist the military by killing communists. The instructions were probably carefully worded, given that Sukarno, who was unwilling to blame the PKI for the coup attempt, was still president at the time. Yet there were some signs of di- rect endorsement from the NU for the violence. In correspondence with the Pekalongan branch of Ansor, for example, the NU Central Board thanked the Pekalongan branch for their report on efforts to crush the 30 September Move- ment.” They also urged that ifany NU men became victims of abduction or were “killed in the battle,” a report should be filed with their name, address, position in the organization, family details, and an explanation of how they died, such that appropriate merit would be bestowed upon them as a syabid (Islamic mar- tyr).16 In January 1966 the NU leadership endorsed a booklet entitled Guide- book for Indoctrination to Eliminate the Thinking ofPKI/Gesmpit, in which the editor claimed it was a form ofworship (ibadala) to cmsh the PKI and that "the PIG must be wiped out from the face of Indonesia and never given the chance to exist again.”'7 In the months after the coup attempt, members of Banser mobilized, with varying degrees of military assistance and direction, and rounded up and killed members of leftist organizations. Several primary accounts detail the roles of NU members in this violence.m Secondary analyses of the violence include the work of liealy, who focuses on the N U’s role in backing and coordinating the vio- 11. PEI'HJ-‘flffiali' perigurns besar Parmi Nabn'n'mn.’ Uiama berserat segcnap armaS-arnmsry‘a 1965. 12. lbid. 15. Insirtiksi No 1/!)21pp1'1965puguk pimping” (LE Ansor 1965. 14. ibid. 15. Ansor Tiabang Kopm Pekalongan 1965. 16. lbid. 17. Hamha 1966, ll. 18. Primary accounts include Anonymous 1986. 135—49; Anonymous 1990, 169-76: Deutsch 2008: and Rochijat 1985, 43. McGregor i Confronting the Fast 199 lence,'9. Young, who studies the combination of local and national influences, including N U—PKI tensions in the killings in Kediri, Eastjava," and Sulistyo and Sudjatmoko, who describe the degree of military or civilian direction in the kill- ings in Jombang, Kediri, and Magetan in East Java, and in Bali (concluding that local vigilantes instigated much of the killing in East Java):1 Hefner details the role of Banser in the Tengger Highlands in East Java, where Banser members came from the iowlands and worked together with the army to carry out purges of FIG members.22 Robinson also mentions in passing a minor role Banser played in Bali, where the majority of the population are Hindus.“ The NU was not the only civilian organization that supported killings. The second largest Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah, also provided rapid sup- port for crushing the PIG, with some leaders declaring this a religious duty.“ The Secretary general of the Catholic Party, Harry Tjan Silahi was a key founder of KAP-Gestapu (the Action From to Crush the 30 September Movement). He helped mobilize youths from PMKRI (Pers...
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