He is the son of Wartono (father) and Sri Sulastri (mother). When he was just a high school student, he began to create discussion forum on politics, which was an unpopular move during Suharto's dictatorial regime. He pursued Economics at Gadjah Mada University where he immersed himself with leftist student movements and started to organize peasants movements in Java. Inspired by revolutionary movement, he dropped out of college to focus in leftist movement, and became a chairman of People's Democratic Association (Perhimpunan Rakyat Demokratik). In July 1996, he founded the People's Democratic Party (PRD) and led street demonstration in Jakarta.
Shortly after the party declaration, 27 July Riot took place. Sudjatmiko was accused as riot perpetrator by the Soeharto government, and then arrested in August 1996. He received 13 years jail sentence, but then was released in 10 December 1999 after Suharto's downfall. He then continued as the chairman of the party until 2001.
In 2002, after resigning from his chairman position and leaving his party, he pursued Master degree in Department of Political Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies. He continued to pursue MPhil degree in University of Cambridge.
In December 2004, he joined Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), which is one of the major party in Indonesia. On this movement, he commented:
Although there is still much which must be sorted out in terms of professionalism, ethics and morals, in the vision of struggle and other programs within the PDI-P, all of this is a challenge for the PDI-P to become the party of the little people.
In addition to having studied Economics at the Gadjah Mada University, Budiman has gained two prestigious Masters degrees, both in International Relations, from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and at Clare Hall, Cambridge.
He is currently the director of Res Publica Institute, an Indonesian defense think tank.
In July 2005, he is married to Kesi Yovana, an activist of Imparsial (Indonesian Human Rights Monitor). They have one daughter, Kharisma Sudjatmiko.
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