Promoting non violence
The women of Long Isun have also played a significant role in reducing violent actions in their territories, especially when the community is threatened by militarism. They have witnessed far too many community members being subject to violence by military personnel, and decided this needed to stop.
In 2014, Theodorus Tekwan, a Long Isun community member who has been a vocal advocate against land grabbing by PT. KBT, was falsely charged with halting the company’s operation. When police officers came to the village, the women turned themselves in and claimed that they were the ones responsible. They brought with them their children and domestic animals, such as pigs and hens. This peaceful gesture successfully delayed the capture of Tekwan, giving enough time for the community to come up with a strategy, and prevent police officers from using violent force to capture him.
In West Sumatra, the women of Nagari Simpang Tiga Koto Baru have also demonstrated peaceful resistance against an oil palm company which has established plantations in community areas for years. On several occasions these women have used their bodies as a human shield to block the company’s vehicles and heavy equipment from entering their disputed lands, and to demand negotiations with the company.
In Pasaman Barat District, West Sumatra, the women of Nagari Mandiangin have been in conflict with plantation companies for some time. They tapped into their local wisdom to ensure that their fight is financially sustainable. As a tradition, every week the people of Nagari Mandiangin collect a glass of rice, their main agricultural product, from each household to use as a collective resource. Realising that their fight against the two companies could be a long and onerous one, the women have been selling the collected rice to finance their resistance. This income also funded their march to the office of the Pasaman District Head in 2017 to demand local government attention.
Responding to the rampant practice of criminalisation, women of Rukam Village and Sungai Paur Village in Jambi Province, West Sumatra, have been exercising a meta legal approach to avoid criminalisation by a logging company. They have been planting company-claimed areas with paddy. Not only does this get around the “destroying and damaging company property” accusation, it is also a tactical approach to reclaiming the land.
For this year’s upcoming harvest season, the community plans to hold panen raya, or great harvest festival, to which they will invite neighbouring communities, government officials and company representatives. This will make their struggle a public concern by focusing attention on what they are fighting for (their livelihoods, as symbolised by paddy), rather than on what they are fighting against (the logging company). In this way, they hope to to garner public support for their cause.
This indigenous women’s movement has undoubtedly made a significant contribution to the fight against land grabbing in Indonesia. However, much more work is required to protect the rights of these women, and more importantly to ensure that they do not have to fight these battles in the first place.