Survivors of 1948 Madiun affair speak out

Eighty-five-year-old Siti Asyiah, a survivor of the 1948 Madiun affair, talks to journalists while accompanied by her daughter in Jakarta on June 2, 2016.
Eighty-five-year-old Siti Asyiah, a survivor of the 1948 Madiun affair, talks to journalists while accompanied by her daughter in Jakarta on June 2, 2016. Viriya Singgih.

Resolving past human rights abuses that happened in 1965 is like peeling an onion as there are too many layers, which also require people to recall past ordeals. One of the layers is the 1948 Madiun affair, an alleged failed armed insurrection by the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Siti Asyiah, 85, is among the survivors of the 1948 Madiun affair who dared to speak out about the incident. Asyiah’s adoptive father, Haji Dimjati, was killed during the upheaval in Ngawi, East Java, in September 1948.

“At that time, Haji Dimjati chose to flee to a relative’s house in Katerban village [Purworejo, Central Java]. After only a few days, someone came and told him that the situation in the village was safe. So, he came back home to Ngrambe village [Ngawi, East Java], only to be beheaded by PKI members there,” Asyiah said.

She further said the informant had trapped her adoptive father to kill him along with another victim called Soewandi.

“Both victims were religious figures from the Masjumi Party. PKI members indeed targeted them,” said Sobri Irsjadi, 65, the first child of Asyiah. Masjumi, an abbreviation of Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia, was a major Islamic political party in Indonesia at the time.

“Meanwhile in Magetan [East Java], the victims were not only religious leaders but also members of the military and the police. I have seen a mass grave containing of the remains of at least 40 victims there,” he further said.

Aisyah is among the 1948 Madiun affair survivors who attended an anti-communist symposium held by retired military generals on June 1 and 2. Hard-line Islamic groups and retired officers also participated in the event.

The symposium gave the public quite a different perspective on the 1965 communist purge than the one given at an April 18-19 national symposium. Held in the wake of public demands to resolve past human rights abuses, the April symposium aimed to form recommendations for the government on the 1965 massacre, which targeted PKI members and sympathizers.

The symposium brought together victims and survivors of the 1965 tragedy, human rights activists, academics and state officials. During the event, survivors called on the government to bring about reconciliation and repeal all discriminative laws against them.

The 1948 Madiun affair was initially triggered by the dissatisfaction of left-wing parties under the People’s Democratic Front (FDR). They were apparently dissatisfied with government programs under the Mohammad Hatta Cabinet, which was dominated by factions of the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) and Masjumi, which aimed to reorganize the Army. The FDR also criticized Hatta’s pro-US policy, which was taken to anticipate Dutch military aggression.

The FDR comprised the PKI, the Indonesian Socialist Party (PSI) and the Labor Party of Indonesia (PBI). However, the PSI and the PBI agreed to merge with the PKI at a conference led by Musso in August 1948.

On Sept. 18, 1948, the FDR took over Madiun city in East Java and established a new government called the National Front. As the leader, Musso declared war against the Indonesian government.

Eventually, the armed forces retook Madiun, arrested tens of thousands of leftists and executed most FDR leaders.

However, many innocent civilians were reportedly killed during the affair. Jumaidi, 87, said during the June symposium that he himself witnessed PKI members killing people in Ngawi in September 1948.

“The PKI’s red army soldiers were shooting people at that time. Many Masjumi members were also detained by them,” he said.

Concerning the claims about the 1948 Madiun affair, the June symposium recommended the government maintain the ban on the PKI and all of its activities in the country, as well as the ideologies of communism, Marxism and Leninism. The government was also urged not to reopen old wounds in order to prevent public unrest.

Despite testimonies on the 1948 Madiun affair, human rights activists keep calling on the government to resolve the 1965 purge of PKI members and sympathizers nationwide as the perpetrators have never been revealed.

It is estimated that at least 500,000 people were killed during the massacre, while others were tortured and arrested. Survivors and victims have also been stigmatized and face discrimination to this day.

Haris Azhar, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) said in April that the 1965 case was the mother of all violence in Indonesia that led to other serious human rights abuses.

Haris asserted that the best way to move forward would be to tell the whole truth to the public and then follow that up with an acknowledgement from the government.


1. This story was first published on The Jakarta Post website.


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