East Sumatra revolution

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The East Sumatra revolution, also known as the East Sumatra Social Revolution, began on 3 March 1946. Across 25 "native states", many sultanates were overthrown and mass killing on members of the aristocratic families were performed by armed pergerakan groups (Indonesian nationalist).[1] To the opportunistic pergerakan militants (especially Partai Komunis Indonesia Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) Communists: Karim Marah Sutan and Luat Siregar), the revolutionary movement was seen as one of the means for East Sumatra to be freed from colonial overlordship and to join the larger Indonesian National Revolution.[2] Participants of the revolution were believed to be provoked by leaders to kill aristocrats and create violents.These belligerents had three prime objectives: to eliminate the sultans and aristocrats (who were seen as Dutch allies), to seize their wealth (as sources of funding for the Indonesian independence campaign) and to eliminate the region's feudal social structure.[3]The revolution brought about the formation of Negara Sumatera Timur (NST/the East Sumatran State), which was dissolved when the region became part of the Indonesian republic.

Background[edit]

On 3 March 1946, thousands of armed men assembled to oppose the big sultanates after hearing the rumours of the Dutch’s return. Violence and bloodshed was involved, where seven princes, ninety aristocrats (in Langkat) and countless officials from native states were killed.[4] The Sultan’s daughters were also mistreated by the Pemuda (young Japanese-trained militant) leaders and many Malay farmers were forced to give up their plantation land that they had acquired under the Dutch to be redistributed for those former plantation workers and non-Malay farmers.The militants under the leadership of PESINDO (Pemuda Republik Indonesia), Indonesian Communist Party (PNI), and Indonesian National Party (PKI) attacked almost all of the Malay aristocrats. The wives and children of the aristocrat families were interned and their houses were ransacked for treasure by the pemuda. The sympathy that Malay aristocrats had for the Dutch and the threats that they represented to the independence of Republic Indonesia were commonly seen as the two main reasons for the occurrence of this violent event.

Main Objectives[edit]

There are three main objectives associated with the revolution that involved different groups of people: firstly, to seize Malay aristocrats and their principal supporters so as to thwart their plans for the return of the Dutch; secondly, gain control of kerajaan (Malay empire)’s wealth in order to sustain the expenses for national struggle and thirdly, to exercise political and societal changes in accordance to the Marxist intellectuals who were involved in the event.[5]

Causes[edit]

The 1946 East Sumatra social revolution was an outcome of class, ideological and ethnic tensions that had accumulated over a few decades. Since Dutch colonial period, the region’s demographics, socio-political structure and economic system had undergone great changes. Many locals, especially the low and middle class, who were consistently suppressed under the hierarchy system, became highly dissatisfied with the kerajaan hierarchy and the Dutch. Besides involving, the occurrence of the revolution has also reflected a great diversity of interests from almost all sections of Sumatran society and several complex issues behind the fight for independence in East Sumatra.

Political Causes:

Three men in ceremonial dress
Deli royal family

By 1942, the Dutch, who were accountable to the Netherlands East Indies government in Batavia, was holding on to majority of the administrative power in the region. As part of the sultanates' distinguishing trait, a feudal government was formed on top of the four primary sultanates in the region (Langkat, Serdang, Deli and Asahan) and kerajaan before (and after) the arrival of the Dutch,[6] Under Dutch rule, the kingdoms and principalities were absorbed into a centralised political structure and these indigenous elites were included in the administration (which they shared with the Dutch ) of the region.[6] Consequently, both the Dutch and Malay aristocrats were able to use their political power to launch policies that suppressed the rights of the commoners. Voices that disagreed with the Dutch repression and Malay aristocracy then started to form among the people from the ground.

Socio-Economic Causes:

Apart from political causes, labour policies were also implemented to sustain the economy of the region. Large numbers of foreign labourers were brought in from China and Java to meet the strong demand of labour in the East Sumatra's plantation economy (which made up 64 percent of economic production). "In the case of the plantation economy in this region, the foreign labour was predominantly from the relatively overcrowded Java: by the 1930s, 43 percent of the population was 'Javanese'."[7] In addition to the Chinese and Javanese (who numbered about 192,000 and 590,000, respectively during the 1930s), the economy also attracted migrants from other parts of Dutch East Indies. As a result, the percentages of the three main indigenous communities: the Malays, Karo Bataks and Simalungun Bataks in the region were significantly reduced.[8] The changes in social structure has aroused anxiety among the people of the East Sumatran society.

The change in socio-economic landscape has also resulted in stark class differences within the East Sumatran society. In the 1930s, many farmers of the tobacco area (Deli-Serdang-Langkat) were told to cultivate in smaller land area while the Malay sultans, Simalungun people and Karo people (Indonesia) rajas enjoyed benefit due to preferential treatment by the Dutch in terms of land leasing.[9] Those aristocrats were able to accumulate significant wealth by "leas[ing] wide tracts of land, the disposal rights over which frequently had lain traditionally with the village, to foreign companies..." and seizing most of the profits.[10] Eventually, most of the rural masses went to seek help from local political parties such as GERINDO (Gerakan Rakyat Indonesia) and PARINDRA (Partai Indonesia Raya) so as to make their grievances heard. The feelings of dissatisfaction that rural farmers have against the aristocrats then became a form of support for these political parties.

Leaders Involved in the Revolution[edit]

There were a few groups of leaders that were involved in the revolution and all of them may be distinguished by differences in class, social mobility, nationalist seniority and ideology.

Firstly, educated Indonesians who were sympathetic to the ideology of nationalism were involved in the revolution. Most of them received tertiary education and have adopted Western values and practices in their daily life. The connections with the traditional aristocratic families did not manage to stop these people from having strong beliefs in nationalism. Ultimately, they recognized that the presence of kerajaan might be one of the hindrances for East Sumatran society to achieve full liberalization.[8] Members of this particular group were local governors and regional deputy governors such as Teuku Muhammad Hasan and Mohammad Amir.

Besides, there was also another group of leaders who share similar ideology of nationalism. Unlike those mentioned earlier, this group of leaders were actively involved with nationalist movements before the Pacific War.[11] Most of them used to collaborate with the Japanese occupiers as administrative personnel and they were motivated to join this revolution so as to promote the political ideology of nationalism as well as to continue their leadership during the post-war period.

Secondly, locals who rose to prominence after undergoing military trainings in Japanese military organisations during the period of Japanese occupation were also responsible for the revolution. These "people’s volunteer armies" were equipped with rich military experiences and that has imbued them with a deeper commitment to radical nationalism. Eventually, some of them became militia leaders in the earlier phase of the social revolution.[12] Many scholars including Anthony Reid and Mohammad Said have highlighted the importance of these people in initiating and executing the 1946 social revolution in East Sumatra.[8][1]

Thirdly, Muslim reformist forces were involved in Islamic movements to resist against the kerajaan and Malay aristocrats. Supporters of the Islamic movements have faced oppression by the sultans who claimed that they were advocating an Islam that is different from the Malay orientation. In order to protect their own religious interests, these anti-kerajaan activists came together to fight against the Malay elites.[13]

East Sumatra under the Dutch (1930s - 1942)[edit]

Ethnic Tensions[edit]

Seated raja, surrounded by other men
Simalungun raja with his entourage

The influx of Chinese, Javanese and other ethnic immigrants into the region during the 1930s spawned several official associations that were connected to the royalty to identify specific indigenous elements to form the cultural core of East Sumatran society.[14] Even though the Karo people (Indonesia), Malays, and Simalungun people were all recognised as indigenous communities in the region, the royalty and associations chose to emphasize more on preserving the Malay cultural identity. Special privileges were granted to the Malays (such as accessing to plantation land) by the Dutch and the social status of the Malays appeared to be much higher than the other indigenous communities in East Sumatra. As a result, members of the other two indigenous communities as well as the other locals felt unfair and that resulted in unwanted ethnic tensions. Increasing number of locals began to disagree with the Dutch and the Malay aristocrats due to the bias attitude that these elites have towards the Malays.

Religious Divisions and Islamic Movements[edit]

Another division between the Malays and the two groups was religion, whereby the Malays were mostly Muslims and majority of the Karo people (Indonesia) and Simalungun were Christians or animists. Despite being the third-largest group in the 1930s, the Javanese, in particular the Abangan, were perceived by the Malays to have a lower social status and their practice of Islam was seen to be nominal. The Malays were usually regarded as the traditional protectors of Islam by the authorities and the other Muslim reformist forces who advocated an Islam different from the Malay orientation were seen as threats to the authority of the sultans. The former was known as the Kaum Tua (old group) and the latter as the Kaum Muda (young group, reformist) who "...sought to free the Islamic communities from superstitious beliefs.".[15]

There were two major modernist Islamic movements launched by the Kaum Muda: firstly, the Muhammadiah movement that involved conflicts over religious texts and teachings and secondly, the Jamiatul Wasliyah organization which shared common interests with Muhammadiah. Even though the Kuam Muda presented themselves as “non-political” Islamic leaders, the kerajaan still regarded those organizations with hostility and decided to support the Kuam Tua instead. Hence, the Malays were said to claim dominance in both political and cultural spheres, which led to resentment of the Malay aristocratic class and Malays in general.[16]

The Political Movement[edit]

During the late 1930s, the national movements led by the pergerakan were developing rapidly among urban and educated sections of the Indonesian community.[5] One example would be the East Sumatra Association, which was created in 1938 by Dutch-educated Malays and was later led by Dr Tengku Mansur (who was connected to the Asahan royal family). The political association aimed to improve the social status of East Sumatran natives, including Simalungun people and Karo people (Indonesia). The national movement then slowly reached out to small farmers of tobacco area, which eventually provided the rudiments of an important rural base for the two nationalist parties, GERINDO and PARINDRA in East Sumatra. Besides raising voices that disagreed with the Dutch repression and Malay aristocracy, the two parties also played important roles in initiating and mobilizing resources to support the 1946 East Sumatra social revolution.[5] Moderate members of PARINDRA even initiated to form a Comité Indonesia in an attempt to present a united pergerakan front to the Japanese. They were motivated to launch a new Indonesian-controlled administration with the support from the Japanese. However, the garnering of support from the Japanese did not work out well because the priority of the Japanese was to obtain the oil and estate produce in East Sumatra rather than making any significant political changes to the existing government structures.[17] Furthermore, the policies adopted by the Japanese were seen as a continuance of Dutch support for the kerajaan and that have caused nationalists to hold stronger negative feelings towards the Sultans and Malay aristocrats.

East Sumatra during the Japanese Occupation (1942- 1945)[edit]

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Sumatra_(1942)

Japanese paratroopers during the invasion of Sumatra in February 1942

During the occupation, the Japanese implemented policies that were perceived as a continuance of Dutch support for the kerajaan. Under the policies, the kerajaan were able to gain access to various incomes, titles, and religious authority that they used to have in the 1930s.[18] The regaining of Malay aristocrats’ power during the Japanese Occupation has resulted in suppression among the peasant community in East Sumatra. Many Japanese officials managed to exploit food and labour supplies from the peasantry through the kerajaan hierarchy and that had increased the amount of economic pressure faced by the farming population of East Sumatra back then.[5] Consequently, the credibility of those traditional, nationalists and religious leaders, who were assigned by the Japanese, was severely damaged. A new leadership was then formed by a group of pemuda (youth) who had received their formative education under the Japanese military groups (Giyûgun, Heiho and Tokubetsu-keibi-tai (Navy)). The military training guided by Japanese ethics and values has fanned their nationalism and motivated them to defend their lands.[19] These Japanese-trained pemuda then took on active roles in fighting against the Dutch and Malay sultans during the 1946 East Sumatra Social Revolution.

Allied Landings, Local Struggles and Period of Uncertainty (Late 1945 - 1946)[edit]

After the Japanese surrendered, the independence of Indonesia was declared in Jakarta and Sukarno was elected as the President of a new Republic. Sumatra was then declared to be a Province of the new Republic and Medan was chosen as its capital.[20] Despite so, many leaders were worried about the Dutch return and the regaining of power among the Malay aristocrats. Many of the Japanese-trained pemuda were then recruited into informal organizations such as Badan Oentoek Membantor Pertahanan Asia (Body for Assisting the Defence of Asia / BOMPA) and Persatuan Pemuda Latihan (Trained Youth Association) to defend the Republic under the arrangement of Xarim M.S – the executor for former BOMPA property.[5]

Before the landings of the Allied (British) forces, these young pemuda were actively propagating on the Republic. They persuaded the senior Indonesian officials to resist the Japanese, the Dutch and Malay aristocrats. Therefore, these pemuda can be seen as"very nationalistic, eager to resist the return of the Dutch, and unsympathetic to the various kerajaan."[21]

The landings of Allied forces (the British) and the provocation from the Dutch, caused some of the pemuda into a panic. On 13 October 1945, the pemuda decided to react strongly by resorting to violence towards the Allied forces. During the fight, two Indonesians and one Ambonese woman were killed.[5]The tide of pemuda violence then spread from Medan to Pematang Siantar within two days and many including the Dutch, Ambonese, pemuda and Swiss were killed as a result of the fight. On 18 October 1945, the control of Medan became British’s responsibility, immediately after official orders were issued by Republican leaders for pemuda to surrender their weapons to the British troops.[22] Nonetheless, the pemuda of East Sumatra managed to acquire some weapons that were leftover by Japanese soldiers after the surrender and used them to confront the British in the south of Medan on 10 December 1945.[23] A strong sense of contingency was said to be present in the British policy as the political circumstances in Indonesia has forced them to make decisions that were seemingly neither pro-Dutch nor pro-Indonesian.[24] Tensions between the Dutch and British modes of operation as well as the strong resistance from Indonesian nationalists resulted in a low British morale throughout the post-war British occupation.[25]

Armed clashes with the British, Dutch, and Japanese remained at a low level for the next two months until rumours that the Dutch were about to attempt a landing started spreading viral among the locals. On 3 March 1946, thousands of armed pemuda surrounded the palace in Tanjung Balai in response to the wide dissemination of reports that claimed that the kerajaan had formed a Comité van Ontvangst (reception committee) to welcome the Dutch.[5] The outbreak of violence between the kerajaan and the armed pemuda hence marked the start of the 1946 East Sumatra Social Revolution.

Aftermath[edit]

Large crowd, holding banners
NST supporters

The revolutionaries including the armed pemuda were able to fight the Dutch come-back with a common unifying goal in 1945, but there was insufficient resources to last through a longer period than 1947. The Dutch come-back during the second half of 1947 had to rely on the support by Malay aristocrats, especially when it was facing tougher guerrilla opposition after the cease-fire. In addition to Malay support for the reinstatement of Dutch rule, representatives of other groups expressed similar concerns (some Toba leaders and the Chinese community, in particular; these groups had benefited economically from Dutch rule). The Chinese community, who were economically advantaged, were also targeted by the pemuda and their property was seized.[9] In this uncertain milieu, the Chinese community saw the British and Dutch colonial forces as protectors.

Subsequently, the westernized Malay elites formed the Persatuan Sumatera Timur in 1938 to reassert Malay and Simalungun ethnic interests through support from the Dutch. With the support of these Malays, the Dutch attempted to establish a federal Indonesia consisting of a Dutch-support Negara Sumatera Timur (NST/ the East Sumatran State).[26] The threat felt by the Chinese has also motivated them to co-operate with the Malay aristocrats, most of the Simalungun rajas, some Karo chieftains and the Dutch in creating the NST. Dr Tengku Mansur (a member of the Asahan royal family) was selected as head of state and the NST lasted from Jan 1948 to Aug 1950. While the Dutch wanted the NST to be seen as an orderly and progressive alternative to the Republic, the western-educated aristocrats saw NST as an embankment for their own ethnic interests during that time period.[5] The NST began to disintegrate as soon as the Dutch military support was withdrawn. The short-lived state was viewed with suspicion, and Dr Tengku Mansur eventually surrendered authority to the Republic in August 1950.[27] Consequently, East Sumatra was merged into a larger province of North Sumatra, where it has remained till today.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Said, H. Mohammed (1973). What was the Social Revolution of 1946" in East Sumatra?. Cornell University: Indonesia Southeast Asia Program Publications. pp. 145–186. 
  2. ^ Kahin, George McTurnan (2003). Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia. New York: Cornell Southeast Asia Program University Publications. p. 180. 
  3. ^ Reid, Anthony (2005). An Indonesian Frontier: Acehnese and Other Histories of Sumatra. Singapore: Singapore University Press. p. 328. 
  4. ^ Arrifin, Omar (1993). Bangsa Melayu: Malay Concepts of Democracy and Community 1945–1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 64. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Reid, Anthony (1979). The Blood of the People: Revolution and the End of Traditional Rule in North Sumatra. United States: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019580399X. 
  6. ^ a b R. Kahin, Audrey (1985). Regional Dynamics of the Indonesian Revolution: Unity From Diversity. United States: University of Hawaii Press. p. 113. ISBN 0824809823. 
  7. ^ Kipp, Rita Smith (1996). Dissociated Identities: Ethnicity, Religion and Class in an Indonesian Society. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 46. ISBN 047208402X. 
  8. ^ a b c Reid, Anthony (1979). The Blood of the People: Revolution and the End of Traditional Rule in North Sumatra. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019580399X. 
  9. ^ a b Dick, H.W. (2002). The Emergence of a National Economy : An Economic History of Indonesia, 1800-2000. Australia: Asian Studies Association of Australia in association with Allen & Unwin. p. 103. ISBN 9781741150209. 
  10. ^ Kahin, George McTurnan (2003). Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia. New York: Cornell Southeast Asia Program University Publications. p. 179. ISBN 0877277346. 
  11. ^ Palazzo, Albert. "The Netherlands East Indies and the Pacific War". Allies in Adversity. Australia and the Dutch in the Pacific War (Australian War Memorial). 
  12. ^ Kahin, Audrey (1999). Rebellion to Integration: West Sumatra and the Indonesian Polity. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. p. 99. ISBN 9053563954. 
  13. ^ Ariffin, Omar (1993). Bangsa Melayu: Malay Concepts of Democracy and Community 1945–1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 85. ISBN 0195886135. 
  14. ^ Ariffin, Omar (1999). Revolusi Indonesia dan Bangsa Melayu: Runtuhnya Kerajaan-Kerajaan Melayu Sumatera Timur Pada Tahun 1946. Pulau Pinang: Koperasi Kedai Buku Universiti Sains Malaysia Sdn Bhd. ISBN 983861193X. 
  15. ^ Arrifin, Omar (1993). Bangsa Melayu: Malay Concepts of Democracy and Community 1945–1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 85. 
  16. ^ Kahin, Audrey R. (1985). Regional Dynamics of the Indonesian Revolution: Unity From Diversity. United States: University of Hawaii Press. p. 116. ISBN 0824809823. 
  17. ^ Kahin, Audrey (1999). Rebellion to Integration: West Sumatra and the Indonesian Polity. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. p. 95. ISBN 9053563954. 
  18. ^ Kahin, Audrey (1999). Rebellion to Integration: West Sumatra and the Indonesian Polity. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. p. 95. ISBN 9053563954. 
  19. ^ Kahin, Audrey (1999). Rebellion to Integration: West Sumatra and the Indonesian Polity. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. p. 118. ISBN 9053563954. 
  20. ^ Bertrand, Jacques; Laliberte, Ander (2010). Multination States in Asia: Accommodation or Resistance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN 0511750757. 
  21. ^ Arrifin, Omar (1993). Bangsa Melayu: Malay Concepts of Democracy and Community 1945–1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 85. 
  22. ^ Kahin, Audrey (1999). Rebellion to Integration: West Sumatra and the Indonesian Polity. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. p. 243. ISBN 9053563954. 
  23. ^ McMillan, Richard (2005). The British Occupation of Indonesia, 1945-1946: Britain, the Netherlands and the Indonesian revolution. New York: Routledge. 
  24. ^ McMillan, Richard (2005). The British Occupation of Indonesia, 1945-1946: Britain, the Netherlands and the Indonesian revolution. New York: Routledge. 
  25. ^ McMillan, Richard (2005). The British Occupation of Indonesia, 1945-1946: Britain, the Netherlands and the Indonesian revolution. New York: Routledge. 
  26. ^ Langenberg, Michael. van (1982). "Class and Ethnic Conflict in Indonesian's Decolonization Process: A Study of East Sumatra". Indonesia 33 (Apr): 1–30. doi:10.2307/3350925. 
  27. ^ Reid, Anthony (1971). "The Birth of the Republic in Sumatra". Indonesia 12 (Oct): 21–46. doi:10.2307/3350656. 

References[edit]

  • Ariffin, Omar (1993). Bangsa Melayu: Malay Concepts of Democracy and Community 1945–1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195886135.
  • Ariffin, Omar (1999). Revolusi Indonesia dan Bangsa Melayu: Runtuhnya Kerajaan-Kerajaan Melayu Sumatera Timur Pada Tahun 1946. Pulau Pinang: Koperasi Kedai Buku Universiti Sains Malaysia Sdn Bhd. ISBN 983861193X.
  • Dick, H.W. (2002). The Emergence of a National Economy : An Economic History of Indonesia, 1800-2000. Australia: Asian Studies Association of Australia in association with Allen & Unwin. p. 103. ISBN 9781741150209.
  • Kahin, Audrey R. (1985). Regional Dynamics of the Indonesian Revolution: Unity From Diversity. United States : University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824809823.
  • Kahin, George McTurnan (2003). Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia. New York: Cornell Southeast Asia Program University Publications. pp. 179. ISBN 0877277346.
  • Kipp, Rita Smith (1996). Dissociated Identities: Ethnicity, Religion and Class in an Indonesian Society. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 047208402X.
  • Laliberte, Ander (2010). Multination States in Asia: Accommodation or Resistance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN 0511750757.
  • Langenberg, Michael. van. (1982). Class and Ethnic Conflict in Indonesian's Decolonization Process: A Study of East Sumatra. Indonesia, Apr (33), PP 1–30.
  • McMillan, Richard (2005). The British Occupation of Indonesia, 1945-1946: Britain, the Netherlands and the Indonesian revolution. New York: Routledge.
  • Milner, Anthony (2011). The Malays. United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1444339036.
  • Palazzo, Albert. "The Netherlands East Indies and the Pacific War". Allies in Adversity. Australia and the Dutch in the Pacific War (Australian War Memorial).
  • Poulgrain, Greg (1998). The Genesis of Konfrontasi: Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia 1945–1965. Australia: Crawford House Publishing Pty Ltd. ISBN 1850655138.
  • Reid, Anthony (1979). The Blood of the People: Revolution and the End of Traditional Rule in North Sumatra. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019580399X.
  • Reid, Anthony (2005). An Indonesian Frontier: Acehnese and Other Histories of Sumatra. Singapore: Singapore University Press. ISBN 9971692988.
  • Said, H. Mohammed (1973). What was the Social Revolution of 1946" in East Sumatra?. Cornell University: Indonesia Southeast Asia Program Publications. pp. 145–186.