Indonesia in struggle

June 12, 1991

Persistent and often militant grassroots protests have re-emerged in Indonesia in the last 18 months. These protests have occurred in almost all provinces of the country and have involved peasants and workers as well as students.

The emergence of active alliances between students, workers and peasants has been a major characteristic of the new wave of radicalism. The protests signal the beginning of the struggle to rebuild a progressive people's movement in Indonesia.

New groups have emerged to lead these efforts, such as INFIGHT (Indonesian Front for Defence of Human Rights), Yogyakarta Students Communication Forum, Yogyakarta Women's Communication Forum, Partisan and others.

Peasant farmers have been involved in long struggles against major developers and local government authorities in Jakarta, various parts of Java, Bali and Sumatra. Some peasant mobilisations have involved up to 14,000 people, such as those at Majalengka in west Java, where peasants reoccupied their land and pulled up all the crops planted by the new corporate owners.

In all cases the farmers' campaigns have been met by military harassment, detentions and beatings. In some areas, such as the Kedung Ombo district, there are now semi-permanent military encampments attempting to keep people out of the villages.

Other major campaigns have occurred in the Cilacap region (south Java), Cimacan (west Java), Madura (off east Java), west Bali and south Sumatra.

Students have also launched demonstrations and rallies. These have been aimed at defending fellow activists who have been arrested, jailed and sentenced for anything up to eight years, sometimes for nothing more than circulating books. The most militant actions have been in the university town of Yogyakarta, where students have rallied to defend three students currently in prison there. Students also carried out a series of demonstrations in Jakarta, Bandung and other cities opposing US policy on the Gulf War earlier in the year.

In all these demonstrations, women have also played a leading role. New militant women's groups have also been campaigning for an end to the oppression of women, and in defence of groups of poor women being pushed out of their market spots in Yogyakarta.

All protests and demonstrations have faced military harassment or dispersion. Student activists now risk some kind of imprisonment and beating every time they demonstrate. Yet there is no sign of the movement waning.

On these pages we present photographs of some of these protests, taken by the participants themselves.

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