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Home arrow Religion arrow Islam and the making of the nation: Kartosuwiryo and Political Islam in 20th Century Indonesia

Seeking a structure

The 3rd Division of the TKR (later to become the Siliwangi Division of Tentara Negara Indonesia, TNI) was initially stationed in

Tasikmalaya under the leadership of Aroedji Kartawinata (a former PSII cadre; see Chapter 1), but in late October 1945 - just before its command was transferred to Nasution - the division was moved to Malangbong for unspecified ‘political priorities’.[1] Militias operating in the Bandung area had formed the Markas Dewan Pimpinan Perdjoeangan (MDPP, Resistance Leadership Council Headquarter) under the leadership of Soetoko (from Pesindo) and Kamran (Hizboellah leader and future chief of the Tentara Islam Indonesia, TII) as early as January 1946, with the goal of countering the impact of Nasution’s Republican troops.[2]

Having broader authority than any of the militia leaders, Nasu- tion began to disarm the MDPP within a month of its formation. He incorporated its soldiers into the TKR and expanded the authority of his own army division. But Nasution did so without considering that the MDPP had been formed with the specific intention of opposing the influence of Republican troops across the region. By the end of February, Kamran and Soetoko formed another coordinating body that was politically neutral and aimed at the establishment of Indonesia’s independence. The Majelis Persatoean Perdjoeangan Priangan or Markas Pimpinan Perdjoeangan Prian- gan (MPPP, Priangan Fighting Unity Council or Leadership Centre) was stationed in Bale Endah, near Ciparay, the most advanced position Indonesian troops had managed to occupy in their struggle for regional defence.[3]

In the meantime, British troops had begun their operation to bring Java under control on behalf of the SEAC. After a few months of long-distance attacks, on 20 March 1946 the 15th Indian Corps of the British artillery heavily attacked the Bandung headquarters of the Tentara Republik Indonesia (TRI, Army of the Indonesian Republic), a group composed largely of Nasution’s Siliwangi soldiers.[4] Following these attacks, both Siliwangi troops and the MPPP were forced to abandon their positions, allowing the Allies to take control of the city. The MPPP established its new headquarters in East Priangan, which, along with Cirebon, were the only areas controlled by the Republic.

Following a British ultimatum, by the morning of 25 March Nasution had led his TRI division out of Bandung and into Garut. But he added that he ‘could not be responsible for extremist elements’.[5] This note is quite significant, as it shows that the level of friction between Nasution and the militias was high, as was his frustration over his inability to control them. The colonel was referring to Hizboellah, Sabilillah and Pesindo militias, which he had unsuccessfully tried to incorporate into his own division for several months. Not only were these militias generally more skilled than the majority of his regular troops, but - and more significantly - Nasution was not confident his troops could successfully face the Dutch by themselves, as suggested by Robert Cribb.[6]

The MDPP, too, had moved to Garut, but it had changed its name to become the Resimen Tentara Perdjoeangan (RTP, Fighting Army Regiment), under the exclusive leadership of Soetoko. Within weeks, the RTP was placed under Nasution’s Siliwangi Division’s command. Also in May 1946, one of its five battalions, composed only of Hizboellah and Sabilillah soldiers and possibly having its origins under Kamran’s command, now came under the Command of Major Hoeseinsjah.[7] This regiment had been able to maintain independence of action for a full year, but by May 1947

it was forced to become the 9th Regiment of the 2nd Brigade of Nasution’s Siliwangi Division.[8]

Notwithstanding the Republican government’s efforts to incorporate irregular militias into the national army, the unification of Siliwangi, Hizboellah and Sabilillah troops was far from happening in reality. The integration and rationalization of irregular militias that began in May 1946 had yet to be achieved by the end of 1947 thanks to widespread tensions and major conflicts.[9] The order for Hizboellah and Sabilillah troops to merge into the TNI National Army was ratified by Soekarno on 2 January 1948 together with the Renville Agreement, but most of the Islamic militias refused to follow these orders and continued to act as separate armies.

A Pasoendan police report, dated October 1948, regarding the arrest of a former Hizboellah soldier, and later TII lieutenant, exemplifies the problems relating to the integration of Islamic militias into the national army: Doendoeng, originally from the Garut area, had been part of the Japanese Peta, and after the capitulation he had chosen to join Hizboellah to comply with what he felt was his religious duty. During the rationalization process, Doendoeng was incorporated in Hoeseinsjah’s battalion and deployed in Cibatu. Six months later he became a TRI lieutenant, soon to be transferred to the Imam Bondjol battalion of the TNI. All this happened despite his open refusal to join the secular Republican forces. He eventually deserted the TNI and again joined Hizboel- lah when the Islamic militias refused to withdraw to Central Java in January 1948, thus becoming a member of the TII.[10]

Besides the tensions related to individual soldiers’ allegiances, frequent skirmishes between Islamic and Republican troops were taking place across the whole region, as the troops were becoming increasingly polarized. The root of these clashes was Hizboellah and Sabilillah’s frustration at seeing that TNI troops were better armed but unwilling to fight, as they often abandoned the battlefield, leaving Hizboellah and Sabilillah to face the Dutch. As highlighted in a 1946 police report, when faced with advancing NICA troops, the TNI soldiers stationed in Cibeber retreated, even leaving their weapons behind. Since Hizboellah and Sabilillah were in the area, they picked up the carbines and guns that had belonged to Republican troops and then resoundingly defeated the Dutch.

Yet the compiler notes that, on many occasions, retreating TNI soldiers refused to hand their weapons over to Masyumi troops, preferring instead to destroy them as a precaution, since Islamic militias were being treated as enemies.[11]

These clashes increased in frequency and intensity throughout 1946 and 1947, especially after the Dutch invaded West Java in July 1947, and thus mirrored the political conflict between Masyumi and Soekarno’s Republican government (discussed below).

  • [1] Lukman Madewa, Esa hilang dua terbilang: Album kenangan Kodam 6/Siliwangi 1946-1977(Bandung: Kodam 6, 1977), p. 24.
  • [2] The MDPP was formed by Pesindo, Hizboellah, Sabilillah, Pemuda Indonesia Maluku,Barisan Banteng and Kebaktian Rakyat Indonesia Sulawesi (Horikoshi, ‘The Dar-ul-Islam movement’, p. 66) and Barisan Pemberontak Rakyat Indonesia (BPRI), Angkatan Pemuda Indonesia (API), Barisan Merah Putih, Lasjkar Wanita Indonesia (Lasjwi) (Usman Jauhari, ‘PerananHizboellah-Sabilillah’, p. 43. John R.W. Smail, Bandung in the early revolution 1945-1946: A studyin the social history of the Indonesian revolution (Ithaca, NY: Department of Asian Studies CornellUniversity, 1964) offers a detailed investigation of the events that occurred in Bandung between1945 and 1946 based on Indonesian sources, Siliwangi’s military publications and the newspaperMederka. Madewa, Esa hilang dua terbilang, p. 24. refers to MDPP as Markas Daerah PerjuanganPertahanan Priangan.
  • [3] Smail, Bandung in the early revolution, pp. 129-30, 143-5; Dinas Sedjarah Kodam VI Siliwangi,Siliwangi dari masa ke masa (Jakarta: Fakta Mahjuma, 1968), p. 505; the second name, ‘Leadership Centre’, is used in Jauhari, ‘Peranan Hizboellah-Sabilillah’, p. 42.
  • [4] On 5 October 1945 the president of the Indonesian Republic issued a statement for theformation of the Tentara Keamanan Rakyat; this was transformed once again into the Tentara Keselamatan Rakyat on 7 January 1946 and finally into the Tentara Republik Indonesiaon 24 January of the same year. See Jauhari, ‘Peranan Hizboellah-Sabilillah’, p. 50. Jakarta andBandung had been occupied by the 7th December Division on 27 August 1946; see MD, AS nos.2220-2225, NA. For details of British troops movements and the substitution of British troopswith Dutch soldiers in Java and Sumatra, see ‘The Allied occupation of the Netherlands EastIndies, September 1945-November 1946’, War Office [hereafter WO] 203/2681; ‘War Diaries ofthe 23rd Indian Division in Java, October 1945 to November 1946’, WO 203/6159; ‘War Diariesof the 15th Indian Corps January-September 1946’, Foreign Office [FO 371/9791]; NationalArchives of the United Kingdom, Kew [hereafter NAUK].
  • [5] ‘War Diary, GS Branch, HQ 15 Indian Corps, summary of main events for March 1946’, FO371/9791, NAUK; Madewa, Esa hilang dua terbilang, p. 24.
  • [6] Horikoshi, ‘The Dar-ul-Islam movement’, p. 67; Robert Cribb, Gangsters and revolutionaries:The Jakarta people’s militia and the Indonesian revolution 1945-49, Southeast Asia Publications Series(Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1991), pp. 163-6.
  • [7] Jauhari, ‘Peranan Hizboellah-Sabilillah’, pp. 46, 53. The other battalions were composed ofBPRI/ Garuda Hitam under Major Riva’i, Pesindo/Taruma Jaya under Major Sudarman and theBat. Gabungan under Major Pellupessy.
  • [8] Madewa, Esa hilang dua terbilang, p. 25.
  • [9] Abdul Haris Nasution, Sekitar perang kemerdekaan Indonesia, vol. 6 (Bandung: Angkasa,1978), p. 474.
  • [10] ‘Proces-Verbaal Doedoeng alias Soenardja, Kementerian Dalam Negeri Negara PasoendanAfdeeling Politie’, 16 October 1948, AABRI DI.
  • [11] ‘Laporan tentang Masjoemi dengan Tentara, Kepala Bagian Penjelidik Republik IndonesiaKantor Polisi Soekaboemi’, 20 August 1946, AAS no. 2746, NA.
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