Friday, January 13

A Broken Piece Of History

The 30th September Movement (Gerakan 30 September, abbreviated as G30S) was an organization of Indonesian Armed Forces officers who, in the wee hours following the night of September 30 1965, assassinated six top Indonesian Army generals in an abortive coup d'état.

Only Suharto escaped.

Later that morning, G30S declared that it had taken President Sukarno under its protection. Suharto, head of the strategic reserve, mobilized. By the end of the day, the coup attempt had failed in Jakarta. Meanwhile, in central Java there had been an attempt to take over an Army division, as well as several cities. By the time the G30S rebellion was put down, two more senior officers were dead.

In the days and weeks that followed, the Army blamed the coup attempt on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Soon a campaign of mass killing was underway, which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of alleged communists. Suharto took over; his 32 year tenure was called the New Order. A few years after it finally ended, Transparency International named him 'the most corrupt leader of all time.'

In a New Order propaganda film Pemberontakan G30S PKI (The Sept. 30th PKI Rebellion), during the failed coup the generals were tortured before finally being killed. The generals' faces, it was claimed, were sliced with razors and their eyes were gouged out before their bodies were dumped into a hole. The Army, long cultivated by Western powers, turned on the PKI 'Maoists' with a vengeance.

The Dutch historian W.F. Wertheim says:

It is by no means certain that the leadership of the PKI or members of its central committee played a role of any importance in the preparation and execution of the putsch.

Many believe that it was Suharto who had egged on the G30S indirectly. The 1966 "Cornell report", a preliminary account of the event drawn up by academics Benedict R. O. Anderson and Ruth McVey from Cornell University, reached the conclusion that the coup was the outcome of an internal army affair, stemming from a small clique in a certain division, which attempted to use both Sukarno and the PKI leadership towards its own ends.

In Bali, in the waning days of Sukarno’s regime, conflict had increased between the high-caste capitalist class, and the lower-caste communists pursuing land reform and more equitable harvest-sharing with sharecroppers.

The communists were one of Sukarno's main supporters, and they were using his tottering regime to further their own agenda of taking over by winning the forthcoming elections. Dipa Nusantara Aidit, the Maoist theoretician heading the PKI, presided over a cadre that was the third largest communist organization in the world after the Soviet Union and China.

In the early 1960s, Bali’s first governor, the Sukarno-appointed Anak Agung Bagus Suteja, increased participation of the PKI in the island’s administrative bodies. The son of the last Raja of Jembrana, Anak Agung Bagus Suteja was influenced by socialist ideas from his school years. Dutch colonial authorities imprisoned him in 1948-49, and after Indonesian independence he was appointed governor of Bali by Sukarno, due to his royal lineage as well as his image of being a leftist idealist.

Land was seized unilaterally from the Brahman and Satria landowners, Wesiya or Chinese businessmen were kidnapped and found murdered. In retaliation, landlord-employed thugs destroyed sharecroppers’ crops and razed their huts, and various government offices were mysteriously burned. A slow-burning revolution, at once a civil war and a class war, was underway.

A serious of ominous natural catastrophes struck Bali: rat plagues, insect infestations, crop failures, and finally, the violent eruption of Gunung Agung in 1963.

The mountain exploded during the holiest of Balinese ceremonies, the once-in-a-century Eka Dasa Rudra, a purification rite in which harmony between people and nature is restored in all 11 directions. (The ceremony was forced to be held 10 years earlier than it was due at the behest of Sukarno, apparently to impress a convention of travel agents. Midway through Sukarno's shindig, Gunung Agung began to shower the area with ash and smoke, finally exploding in its most violent eruption in 600 years.)

The earthquake that accompanied the eruption toppled most temples. As molten lava rushed towards them, the Brahman priests prayed frantically, hoping to appease the angry gods, assuring the devotees they had nothing to fear. In the end, thousands of Balinese were killed, hundreds of thousands left homeless, and a layer of hot choking dust lay over the whole island -- a quarter of Bali had been turned into a black lava desert.

Displaced refugees poured into Denpasar and Singaraja where, together with unemployed urban poor, they formed a restive underclass ripe for mobilization by communist cadres, and even more caste-violence broke out.

Following the events of September 30, a tinder-box atmosphere settled over the island. In December 1965, once the anti-communist purges were mostly underway (or over) in Java, Suharto's special forces landed in Bali.

The killings on Bali started in earnest, and soon began to take on the dimensions of genocide.

Devout Balinese, led by the Brahman and the Satriya, murdered anyone suspected to be a godless communist. In the witch hunt, many old scores were settled, and many wealthy businessmen took advantage of the chaos to murder their competitors. It is a cliche that in Java the people had to be egged on to kill the communists; in Bali they had to be restrained. Vigilante groups drawn from families of upper-caste landlords butchered sharecroppers suspected to be PKI. Priests called for sacrifices to satisfy spirits angered by past sacrilege and social disruption. The Balinese Hindu leader, Ida Bagus Oka said "There can be no doubt the enemies of our revolution are also the cruelest enemies of religion, and must be eliminated and destroyed down to the roots."

The “trance of killings” reached a fever pitch in 1966, when entire "impious" clans in villages were being rounded up wholesale and slashed, clubbed, and chopped to death by communal consent. The purge became so indiscriminate that commandos finally had to step in to coordinate -- the military and police, working with civilian authorities, had to make sure only the “right” people were executed.

Anak Agung Bagus Suteja was summoned to Jakarta, he disappeared in the purges without a trace. PKI-head D.N. Aidit lived on the run until he was apprehended and executed. He remained defiant until the very end. Given half-an-hour before being executed, he started to deliver a speech. The passion with which he spoke made his captors very angry -- they were unable to control their rifle triggers. The location of Aidit's remains are unknown.

Between December 1965 and early 1966, an estimated 80,000 Balinese were killed, roughly 5 percent of the island's population at the time, and proportionally more than anywhere else in Indonesia. Based on his fieldwork in Indonesia in the 1970s and 80s, the anthropologist Clifford Geertz wrote that people remembered the killings as a "broken piece of history, evoked, on occasion, as an example of what politics brings."

Below, a contemporary 'student documentary' on remembering G30S.


Anonymous ILLL(University of Delhi) said...

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4:52 PM  

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