• Patani, Darurat Militer, dan Bom Mobil



    PanaJournal - Di tengah kekerasan militer Thailand dan operasi para gerilyawan, masyarakat Patani berusaha mempertahankan identitas Islam dan Melayu. Mereka menolak hegemoni budaya Siam.

    MOBIL yang saya tumpangi melaju kencang di tengah-tengah jalanan yang lengang, dalam perjalanan dari Kota Hat Yai ke Patani, salah satu wilayah di Provinsi Patani, Thailand Selatan. Waktu tempuh dari Hat Yai, kota ketiga terbesar di Thailand setelah Bangkok dan Chiang Mai, ke Patani sekitar dua jam berkendara.

    “Dalam beberapa tahun terakhir, bom mobil sering meledak tidak hanya di Patani tapi juga di Hat Yai,” ujar Tuwaedaniya Tuwaemaengae, salah seorang aktivis di Patani, yang juga direktur Lembaga Patani Raya (LEMPAR).

    Tuwaedaniya salah satu steering committee dalam workshop “International Youth Engagement in Governance and Conflict Mitigation in South East Asia” yang digelar di Hat Yai pada 27-28 Oktober lalu. Sembari menjadi peserta acara tersebut, saya putuskan menyambangi Patani, wilayah yang tengah dirudung konflik bersenjata di bawah pemberlakuan darurat militer itu, meski panitia sempat melarang.

    Saya sampai di Patani pada 27 Oktober malam.

    RAKAN PATANI
    Sejumlah polisi dan paramiliter berseragam serba hitam, tampak menenteng senjata M-16, senter, dan metal detector. Mereka begitu teliti memeriksa tiap kendaraan roda empat yang melintas di sejumlah pos pemeriksaan di jalan raya di Kota Patani.

    Sementara itu, di sebuah kedai yang letaknya agak menjorok ke dalam gang, tak jauh dari kompleks Universitas Prince of Songkhla, sejumlah anak muda berkumpul berbagi cerita, tentang kawasan yang dulunya dikenal sebagai penghasil karet itu.

    Nama kedai itu adalah “Rakan Patani”. Kursi-kursi dan meja-meja kayu tersusun rapi di dalamnya. Lebih dari lima lampu pijar tergantung di langit-langit. Di sudut kiri kedai yang juga menyediakan kopi Aceh itu, tergantung pula sebuah papan tulis putih.

    Seorang pemuda menatap layar handphone-nya lekat-lekat. Dia adalah Arfan Wattana, Ketua Forum Ikatan Remaja se-Patani (IRIS).

    “Ada penembakan berturut-turut dalam tiga hari ini,” kata dia, menunjukkan foto dan posting-an di akun Facebook-nya, yang berisikan informasi tentang penembakan seorang pria yang menolak berhenti di pos pemeriksaan ketika diminta oleh polisi dan militer. “Nama pria yang ditembak 'askar' (sebutan bagi militer-Red) dua hari lalu itu adalah Nikpha bin Cek Pak.”

    Affan dan anggota di organisasinya gencar mengejar kabar ihwal penembakan dan kekerasan yang dilakukan oleh pihak militer Thailand. Informasi yang didapat kemudian mereka publikasikan melalui media sosial.

    “Biasanya pihak petinggi militer akan merespon dengan enteng bila ada penembakan masyarakat sipil,” ungkap Affan. “Mereka akan bilang, ‘dalam keadaan seperti ini, kesalahan dan kesilapan sering terjadi’.”

    Lagu nasyid di dalam kedai kopi Rakan Patani terdengar hingga ke jalanan, tempat beberapa mahasiswa duduk menikmati jajanan kaki lima.

    Di teras kedai tersebut, saya juga berjumpa dengan Heru Lesmanda, pemuda asal Kota Pekan Baru, Kabupaten Siak, Riau, yang juga tercatat sebagai mahasiswa di Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN) Riau. Di Patani, Heru tengah menjalani program pertukaran mahasiswa. Ia dan sembilan mahasiswa UIN Riau lainnya belajar Universitas Prince of Songkhla, Patani. Jurusan mereka: Islamic International Study.

    “Di sini fasilitas belajar lengkap. Tapi, jika ada yang banyak bertanya dan menyanggah dalam kelas, dosen tidak suka,” ujar Heru.

    Mendapati hari-hari di Patani yang dirundung kabar kematian, Heru mengaku tergugah untuk melibatkan diri dalam diskusi-diskusi kritis mahasiswa. “Tapi saya tak terlalu berani maju ke depan karena saya orang luar,” kata dia.

    Malam terus berlalu. Pukul 10 malam, orang-orang masih berlalu-lalang di sekitar kedai kopi Rakan Patani. Jelang kopi yang saya pesan akan habis, seorang perempuan muda dengan rambut tergerai dan tinggi semampai, dan senyum lebar yang selalu tampak saat ia bicara, memperkenalkan diri. Namanya Pakkamol Siriwat, 25 tahun, kandidat PhD di Universitas Cambridge, Inggris (Department of Politics and Social Studies), yang sedang mengerjakan penelitian untuk disertasinya di Patani.

    Nama panggilan perempuan berlesung pipi itu: Naan. Ia Siam tulen.

    Kami mengobrol tentang Patani. Ia juga bertanya-tanya tentang Aceh. Naan sedikit “mengenal” Aceh dari karya-karya seorang antropog yang menulis beberapa buku tentang kawasan Asia Tenggara, yakni Anthony Reid.

    Judul disertasinya, kata dia pada saya di tengah-tengah perbincangan, adalah Sense of Belonging of Present Day Melayu Pattani Youth.

    “Ada dua hal yang saya dapat di sini (Patani-Red) mengenai bagaimana masyarakat Patani mempertahankan budaya Melayu dan Islam. Pertama, dari keluarga dan selanjutnya sekolah (Tadika-Red),” kata dia, dalam bahasa Inggris.

    Tadika adalah sekolah alternatif tingkat dasar dan menengah, yang digagas untuk menyediakan pendidikan Islam dan budaya Melayu pada siswa-siswa Patani, yang dari Senin hingga Jumat “dicekoki” pelajaran-pelajaran yang terintegrasi dalam “kurikulum Siam” di sekolah nasional.

    “Meskipun pemerintah pusat Thailand melakukan asimilasi besar-besaran, masyarakat Patani masih bertahan dengan identitas Melayu dan Islam mereka,” kata Naan, dengan mulut dipenuhi mie bakso.

    BRUTAL
    Kata Tuwaedaniya, gerakan militer di Patani saat ini digawangi oleh Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) yang aktif sebagai gerakan bersenjata. Dan BRN bukan satu-satunya. “Ada dua lainnya, meskipun tidak aktif dan konon berafliasi dengan pemerintah Thai,” ungkap ayah empat anak itu.

    Sekitar 80% penduduk Patani merupakan etnis Melayu dan beragama Islam. Di Thailand yang berpenduduk sekitar 66 juta orang, mereka adalah kelompok minoritas. Dulunya, selama ratusan tahun, kawasan selatan Thailand merupakan wilayah Kesultanan Patani yang berdiri sendiri. Sejak tahun 1902 wilayah Patani berada di bawah pengelolaan pemerintah Kerajaan Thailand.

    Menurut Ana Lehmann, penulis artikel Konflik Berdarah di Thailand Selatan, dalam merespon gerakan bersenjata di Patani, pemerintah Thailand mengandalkan sekitar 65.000 tentara, paramiliter, dan polisi. Militer juga mempersenjatai kelompok lokal Buddha dan memberi pelatihan senjata kepada sekitar 80.000 relawan.

    Penampilan dan tindakan militer menghadapi para gerilyawan sangat brutal. Menurut organisasi Human Rights Watch, banyak warga muslim yang diculik, disiksa dan dibunuh. Militer bertindak di bawah undang-undang darurat dan undang-undang khusus lain, sehingga mereka luput dari sanksi hukum.

    Di bawah pemerintahan Siam, nama "Patani" dicoba-kecilkan secara politis menjadi "Pattani", yang terpisah dari Narathiwat dan Yala, di bawah Provinsi Songkhla. “Dulunya Patani merupakan kerajaan yang juga menaungi kedua wilayah itu (Yala dan Narathiwat-Red),” ujar Tuwaedaniya. “Penduduk Patani menggunakan bahasa Melayu yang sama seperti bahasa Melayu Kelantan, Malaysia.”

    Penolakan penggunaan nama Patani juga terlihat dari rambu-rambu lalu-lintas dan plang penunjuk jalan yang dicorat-coret. Menurut Tuwae, itu bentuk perlawanan terhadap upaya “hegemoni budaya Siam” di daerah tersebut.

    Lewat pukul 11 malam, saya meninggalkan kedai Rakan Patani. Esok hari saya juga akan meninggalkan kota ini—di mana sewaktu-waktu bom mobil bisa meledak dan menelan nyawa siapa saja.***
    READMORE
  • Poems of Love and Labor


    PanaJournal - They are migrant workers who are also poets and writers. While they toil hard for the rest of the week at shipyards and construction sites; every Sunday; from early evening, they gather to recite the poems they have written over the week.

    IT’S A SUNDAY and at Little India in Singapore, thousands of migrant workers, from Bangladesh, India and other countries have assembled, drawn by the immense attractive force that people from the same country of origin exert on each other once they are in a foreign country.

    It is the only day off in the week for migrant workers and this is their favorite place to socialize, idle around, and indulge a little bit. It is early evening and the place has become a human mesh. I am negotiating every step through the forces exerted by this enormous blanket of human bodies. I am brushing against men in loose untucked shirts, moving around holding hands.

    A tight circle has formed around a street vendor selling jhal muri; the national snacks of Bangladesh, a mixture of puffed rice, raw onions, and mustard oil and green chilies. Four men are sitting on the curbside, reading the facing sheets of the same newspaper, each forming own opinion about the world.

    Long queues are forming and breaking outside the shop houses, the ones that double up as brothels; the men in the queue gawking at the series of elaborately groomed women sitting on the steps.

    But in one shop house along Rowell Road, something unique is happening on the second floor. I have been coming here often on Sundays and I am always greeted by the same scene.

    On the floor, two migrant workers are sleeping. Next to them a group of men are rehearsing a song, their ensemble comprising of the instruments popular in Bangladesh; harmonium, tabla, cymbals and an empty water drum.

    Facing the musicians is a book shelf with over three hundred Bengali books. Further on, at a desk, Mohsin Malhar, a man in his early fifties, is busy working on the computer. Next to him, a group of eight men are sitting around a big table; they are a group of migrant workers who are also poets and writers.

    While these workers toil hard for the rest of the week at shipyards and construction sites; every Sunday; from early evening, they gather to recite the poems they have written over the week, collect and give feedback, and celebrate on occasions like Id or one of their birthdays.

    This place is called Dibashram, a place for migrant workers to practice arts and culture. It also offers emergency shelter to workers who are facing issues with their employers. Once, Dibashram even organized a wedding over Skype between a migrant worker in Singapore and his bride in Dhaka.

    I am here today to check on the preparations for the first Migrant Worker Poetry Competition in Singapore that I am helping to organize together with Banglar Kontho, The Literary Centre (Singapore) and venue sponsor, The National Library of Singapore.

    Banglar Kontho is the only Bengali newspaper in Singapore, run by Mohsin, who first came to Singapore as a student. Under the platform of Banglar Kontho, he encouraged the migrant workers to form activity clubs such as the Banglar Kontho Cultural Forum and the Banglar Kontho Kobi Porishod (Poetry Association) to cultivate appreciation and practice of the arts and culture among the workers.

    There are over 980,800 unskilled foreign workers in Singapore. They often pay fees as high as US$4,000-US$5,000 to the employment agents back home. Once they are in Singapore, they earn anywhere between US$1,000 to US$2,000; from which they have to pay off their expenses, loans taken to pay the agent, and send some money home.

    They work mostly in the construction and marine industries; tough labor made tougher under the tropical weather conditions of Singapore. When things are going fine; the workers manage to buy a smartphone and save a lot more than what they would have done back home.

    But when things go wrong; they can go really wrong. Some end up getting paid a lot less than what they were promised by the agents. Some, when injured, face months of uncertainty over their case, and could face situations like denial by the employer that the injury happened at work; not being paid proper compensation during medical leave; not being given proper treatment by company-affiliated clinics; and occasional reports of being bundled to the airport to send them back to their home countries by repatriation companies.

    The government has been responding by enacting measures such as mandatory provisioning of itemized pay slips and in-principal-approval letters for migrant workers stating the precise terms and conditions of employment before the workers leave their home countries for Singapore.

    However, xenophobic sentiments have been becoming increasingly visible in Singapore, particularly on social media where migrants were being blamed for crowded public transport to general erosion of civility. This reached a climax during the Little India Riots of December 8, 2013; when there was an outpouring of anti-migrant feelings on Twitter and Facebook.

    28 POETS
    The contest had received submissions from 28 poets; well beyond my initial estimate of 10. Some had submitted up to six poems while the contest rules allowed only three. We had set up a well-designed website with a submission form; but none of the entries came through it. Contestants sent in their entries by either scribbling it on paper; scanning their past work and sending it by email; and even over Facebook chat.

    Over the last few weeks, I had got to know the poets better. They add me on Facebook. I see pictures of them with their children; typically everyone is smiling but occasionally with drained-out eyes, the father cheek to cheek with his young daughter, in pictures taken just before he took the flight to Singapore.

    I see a Facebook post by Masud Parvez Opu, a singer who has also written the lyrics for many popular songs in Bangladesh, “Mother, I am always scared that you will leave before I can see you again. Don’t leave mother, please live till I come again.”

    Jahangir Alam Babu, 41, the leader of this gang of poets, is a polymath who writes poems, short stories, and features for newspapers back home. He has written and directed plays. He has also written lyrics for songs and given tunes to them.

    Monir Ahmod; 27, a construction worker who writes mostly poems of rebellion under the pseudonym ‘Shromik’ or worker once told me, “I am always thinking about what to write and use my time during the commute to work and during coffee breaks to write poetry using my mobile phone. My favorite poets are Kazi Nazrul Islam and Sukanto. As you see, they are also rebel poets.”

    Mohor Khan, 33, once told me, “I write only sonnets and they are usually about injustice and social ills. I feel a lot of pain when I see or think of poverty anywhere in the world. And poetry is the only way I can take that pain out of my heart.”

    Mohor has not seen his wife and son for three years, “Imagine all these tall and flashy buildings here, elder brother. They have not been built just by stamping on the ground. They have been built by stamping on my youth and the youth of other workers like me. I have buried my youth under these buildings for the sake of a little comfort for my family. What can be more tragic for me?”

    N Rengarajan, 28, is the only Tamil contestant. His poems are often satirical and make fun of politicians and social ills. His favorite poet is the Tamil poet and lyricist Vairamuthu. He has the habit of saying, “Ok, ok, ok, ok, ok,” in every sentence.

    Syedur Rahman Liton, 30, once told me, “I haves been writing since I was fifteen. I write because I believe that writing is a way for me to influence this world in a small way by either calling for positive action or by protesting against injustices.”

    Asit Kumar Barai (Bangali), 33, is also multi-talented like many of the workers here. He writes poems, novels, short stories and also plays tabla and the plastic water drum. He has acted in over twenty plays in Bangladesh and Singapore. Asit told me once, “I always keep a pen and paper in my chest pocket so that I can write poems whenever I have an idea.”

    Asit is always in a jovial mood. He talks to me about his love escapades in Bangladesh, “Many girls have requested me to write a poem dedicated to them.”

    He tells me stories from his childhood, “When I was twelve or thirteen, my father scolded me heavily one day. I became very angry and left home. I decided to walk all the way to India. I bought a small plastic bag with a map of Bangladesh printed on it. I really believed that this map would be enough to find my way to India. But within 10 minutes I was lost and scared. My uncle found me crying by a small road and then brought me back home.”

    Mohiuddin, 26, also a construction worker once told me, “Writing is my favorite pastime but I also enjoy nature and solitude. I love the sky. I love this earth. I love people.”

    Md Mukul, 24, always has the glint of innocent youth in his eyes. He has written a novel, Buker Simanaye Sukh (Happiness at heart’s edge) and a poetry collection Apurna Vasana (Unfulfilled desire) that has been published in Bangladesh. He told me once, “I miss my mother a lot. So, most of my poems are about my mother. Sometimes I spend the whole night writing.”

    Soft spoken Rajib Shil Jibon, 28, is one of the most versatile among the poets. He writes profusely; on every theme, from romantic, patriotic to day to day life as a worker in Singapore. One of his poems, ‘Life of a Dustbin’, had won awards in Bangladesh. Jahirul, always carries around a thick file of all his poems, neatly written in white sheets.

    THE EVENT
    On the day of the event; it is a full house at the National Library with only standing space available. More than one hundred and fifty people have turned up. Most of them have heard about the event only through social media. I see people from all races and age groups but the majority of the audience are young, college going teenagers.

    Most of the poets and their cheerers have come wearing a kurta resembling the flag of Bangladesh.

    “Elder brother, how close shall I stand from the microphone?” Rajib asks.
    Mohar asks, “Elder brother, Can I say a few words before I start the poem to explain what it is all about?”

    Sohel Rana, a construction worker, and also a lively singer whom we have invited to perform a song to add to the vibrancy of the event, asks me, “Elder brother, will we singers also get some certificate?”

    The event comes to a climax with rousing performances by the singers, who sing about their pride in Bengali culture. The audience, perhaps with limited exposure to this proud and sophisticated culture prior to this event, join in, clapping with the beats. When the singers can’t control their enthusiasm and begin dancing on stage, some from the audience can’t control their hands and feet too.

    The winners are announced soon.

    In third place, is N. Rengarajan and his poem ‘Lessons from Circumstances’; with three anecdotes; one where he asked a firefly if she burns in fear of the dowry she has to pay for her daughter’s marriage; the second about the modern nuclear family that pushes out the old mother who had once picked up the son whenever he fell down as a child; and the third about ‘money’ which he says is the only disease, unlike cancer, AIDS, Ebola, and even love; that kills by its absence rather than its presence.

    The second prize goes to Rajib Shil Jibon, who in his poem titled Aadho Aalo Aadho Adhar (Shades of Light and Dark), talks about the sensation of falling in love as a twilight experience:

    Perhaps I will see a kite looking for its string 
    A rain drop paused, a search waiting in front of me 
    The magician spreading a mountain of illusions 
    And calling us by waving its discarded feathers 

    The first prize goes to Zakir Hussain Khokon, who talks about the loneliness of migrant life and his longing for his wife in his poem Pocket that has the lines:

    I remember when I returned this time 
    my heart dissolved in your tears 
    The pocket of my shirt was wet 
    Reaching the end of my memories 
    I wear that shirt every night and write love poems to you 
    Do I really write poems 
    Or do my poems cry with me?
     
    After the event, I talk to some people from the audience. Treepti says, “It was hair-raising. It was such a revelation; I could never imagine that they could have such depth of thoughts. I was so humbled.”

    Tammie, a student, tells me, “We couldn’t imagine that they are so cultured. It is so heart-warming to see that migrant workers have such talents outside their jobs. And in a way, it is a bit shocking that we could relate to their poems so well.”

    Ryosuke, a migrant worker from Japan, albeit a high skilled one, tells me, “I thought they would be nervous and may be difficult to approach. But they were always smiling to each other and everyone else. I don’t think they felt like this was a competition. I felt that they were just so happy to be presenting to people like us, who they don’t have a chance to communicate with in their daily lives. And this friendly attitude of theirs spread all over the room.”

    George Szirtes, the Hungarian-born British poet and winner of T.S. Eliot prize, who happened to be at the event, writes about the poets in his blog, “They are confident in delivery, some dramatic, some songlike, some gesticulating, some very still. …. The [best of them] have idea, images, a sense of place and of complex emotions. Some are particularly moving but all are moving. Here they are, for the very first time in public, recognized for the creative human personalities they are, not just lost figures in the distance.”

    Zakir’s supervisor Mr Jonathan Tan writes a poem as a congratulatory note to Zakir; it’s titled ‘Wish for Pocket’ and has the lines:

    You write poem so that she can read your heart, 
    Your teary, hurting heart, 
    And she says, come to me you weary soul, rest in me. 

    The event is covered by the local media extensively and also by the major newspapers in Bangladesh. Local poets Alfian Sa’at and Zhou Decheng translate the winning poems to Malay and Chinese as a small gift to the poets.

    Congratulatory comments start pouring in; for the poets and the singers for their performance and for Singapore and its residents for hosting such an event. There is also some good humor; messages on Facebook asking the poets to be mindful of their safety at work and not get lost thinking about a poetic line.

    HUMAN EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS
    After the event, Rajib Shil Jibon says,
    “Elder brother, life as a migrant has been a mixed bag. But do you know the saddest day of my life here? A few years back, I was having my lunch during the break one day. My supervisor came to me and gave me some work right then in a rude way. I was very hungry but had to leave my food right then. I was very angry but stayed quiet. I just kept singing our national anthem, Sonar Bangla, softly, till I finished the job. I was feeling very worthless that day. But then, when everyone at my workplace saw my photograph in the newspaper with the award, all of them, people from different races who work with me, came to congratulate me. Then I recognized this happy-bird called respect. This will forever remain as the sweetest memory in my life.”
    When we had begun preparing for the contest, most people including myself were referring to the contestants as ‘migrant workers.’ I noticed that with time, most including me had begun referring to them as ‘poets’. So perhaps there is also a case for organizing a poetry contest for Investment Bankers or Digital entrepreneurs, professionals normally considered to drench the soul dry.

    Maybe that is why we held this poetry contest for unskilled migrant workers. Perhaps after listening to their poetry; we would not see them as mere components of an economic machine. Perhaps, we would understand again the universality of human emotions and feelings.

    Perhaps, at the same time, we will also relish this diversity of human expression, through this brief exposure to a not too familiar culture. Perhaps, we will not think of arts as an elitist endeavor but as something capable of energizing a life around all the drudgery. Perhaps, the migrant workers too, once they see a full-room of listeners, will appreciate that this wealthy society doesn’t consider them as mere disposables.

    Perhaps, it will be a gentle nudge for everyone to be more compassionate.***
    READMORE
  • A Cold and Hungry Christmas in USA



    PanaJournal - Behind its wealthy facade, the so-called “Land of Opportunities” isn’t quite like so to many Americans. The 2008 economic downturn has left many families and individuals, including children, homeless and hungry.

    TODAY, more than six years later when the country’s economy is already growing at 3.5 to 4 percent, the casualties can still be felt. Although not all homeless and hungry individuals are “victims” of the recent crisis, using this framework helps in understanding the issue with clarity.

    Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless today, while at the same time 18.6 million houses are vacant. Isn’t it amazing to think that for every homeless person in USA, there are six vacant homes? If the houses were given away to homeless individuals with “one person gets one house” scenario, there would still be 15 million vacant ones.

    Foreclosure crisis, which resulted from failed economic policies, and homelessness are on-going nagging problems that shouldn’t have existed in the first place, provided that US economic policies had been designed and developed to cater to the very basic needs of American people.

    Alas, capitalism has reached its lowest point. It has become a vulture, a hyena, a corpse-eating cannibal. What a stark reality.

    First things first, what caused the economic downturn that started in 2007/2008? There are no simple answers. Let’s identify the involved parties in this chaos before we go into details of the devastating impacts.

    There were US Federal Reserve, big banks, Wall Street financial product engineers, and investment banks-cum-commercial banks. Wrap them in a blanket of naive consumers with herding mentality who were sold on the idea of “homeownership” and “your home is your ATM.” The “homeownership euphoria” was made even worse by a statement by George W. Bush stating that “every American must have a home.”

    A multi-dimensional problem indeed.

    In short, the economic downturn was triggered by failed economic policies, which was approved due to lobbies by big banks like Citibank, and was made widely spread by euphoria triggered by naive mindset of “your home is an investment” instead of “a home is a financial liability.” A presidential statement supporting “owning a piece of American Dream” was the icing on the cake.

    The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which was intended to keep investment banks separate from commercial banks for the sake of American economic recovery from the devastating effects of The Great Depression in the 1930s, was repealed during Bill Clinton Administration in 1999 with The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.

    Yes, it was Clinton Administration who repealed it. Not the Republicans. It’s a fact that most democrats might not find favorable. But it was a fact nonetheless and we have to accept it as it is.

    The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allowed the consolidation of investment banks and commercials, which meant allowing retail banks and other financial institutions to create financial products intended for retail customers (you and me) that would be re-packaged and sold as “investment products” by their investment banking arm in Wall Street. One arm of Bank X would create easy-to-sell financial products just to get naive consumers to buy them, while the other arm would create easy-to-sell investment products to Wall Street investors. And those banks made gazillions from the transactions. How convenient.

    The most appaling part of this “re-packaging” of home mortgages, which were mostly “creative loans” due to ease in obtaining credit with minimal income documentation, was the leveraging of up to 70 times by the investment banks. In layman words, your homeownership debt was re-packaged as CDO (collaterized debt obligation) and “guaranteed” by “pseudo insurance” CDS (credit default swap) to be sold 70 times at Wall Street. Imagine your US$250,000 home loan was sold and resold again as “investment package” to Wall Street investors 70 times over, making it worth US$17,500,000 on paper.

    Along with 18 million other homeowners who had lost their properties, as one of “victimized” homeowners, I educated myself on the root causes of 2007/2008 US economic downturn so I could better use macroeconomics data in analyzing the current state of economy and how it would influence my personal finances in the future. I think, many “victims” have learned their lessons and become more aware consumers of financial policies since then.

    This also explains my involvement in advocating for fair housing and anti-foreclosure that would benefit all Americans and citizens of the world. At least, it is an honor and a privilege to educate the whole world about the perils of some financial policies and loan and investments packages, regardless of their short-term advantages.

    Second, are all homeless individuals victims of the economic downturn and current slow economic growth? The quick answer is: no.

    People became homeless for various reasons. Having a home foreclosed might not directly result in homelessness, as long as the individual has sufficient income to support themselves and to rent apartments. However, every individual is different and some individuals are more fragile psychologically and emotionally. I have heard homeowners who killed themselves after losing their hard-earned properties. They were rare but did occur.

    Thus, it is safe to assume that many homeless and hungry individuals are direct and indirect victims of the recent economic crisis.

    The most inexpensive living arrangement is renting a room in someone’s house, like what foreign students and fresh graduates have been doing. It only costs a fraction of a full-fledged apartment unit, which should have been affordable to most working people. This, of course, might not apply in “hot bed” of booming economic bubbles, like in Silicon Valley in San Francisco Bay Area and in “oil boomtowns” in North Dakota, where a one-bedroom apartment may cost US$3,000 per month.

    Unemployment, underemployment, mental and physical health conditions have been the primary reasons of homelessness, which are universally valid. Some of the most chronically homeless individuals are those with mental illnesses, including drug addiction and untreated depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis.

    Combined with American culture that glorifies “being independent” away from your relatives, it is understandable that USA is a land of homelessness. Compared to Asian cultures, in which staying with your relatives —including parents, grandparents, and siblings— despite employment and adult-age statuses, Americans are more reluctant to seek help from relatives. This may contribute to the high rate of homelessness.

    Third, who are those homeless individuals, demographically speaking? Unlike in certain parts of Europe where many homeless individuals are immigrants, American homelessness is more diverse.

    According to data collected by National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in July 2014, half of homeless individuals are African-Americans, 35 percent White Americans, 12 percent Hispanic Americans, 2 percent Native Americans, and 1 percent Asian Americans. Why so? Due to a long history various issues, including but not limited to slavery, post-slavery, racial divide, post-racial divide, failed housing projects, ghetto mentality, and immigration policies favoring highly skilled and highly educated immigrants.

    Fourth, how about children? According to the US Department of Agriculture, approximately 49 million people lived in food-scarce households in 2014, among which 16 million were children. In Zavala County, Texas, food-insecurity rate among children was 41 percent, while the state of New Mexico had 29.2 percent children living in food-insecure households. These are remote counties, which explain the difficulties in getting food and shelter assistance.

    Using point-in-time method, The Homelessness Research Institute the number of homeless individuals were estimated 610,042 on a single night in January 2013. Sixty-five percent of them lived in homeless shelters or transitional housing and 35 percent lived in various random unsheltered locations.

    Twenty-three percent of the homeless individuals were children under 18 years of age. Ten percent were between 18 and 24 years of age and 67 percent were over 25 years old. In between 2012 and 2013, overall US homelessness declined by 4 percent. Fourty-five percent of homeless individuals lived in major cities. Major cities provide more hidden places as temporary shelters, such as under the highway overpass, in alleyways, and behind tall buildings.

    Fifth, how do homeless and hungry individuals cope on day-to-day basis aside from getting assistance from the US government in forms of welfare benefits and food stamps?

    US federal government stated that under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a total of US$816.3 billion has been paid out in forms of tax benefits, contracts, grants, loans, and entitlements. This fund was intended to ease the poverty and economic problems arising from the devastating effects of 2007/2008 economic crisis and the current Great Recession.

    Individuals and families in need are usually getting food and shelter assistance from non-profit organizations, including religious charity organizations. Food banks, food pantries, and churches have programs to feed the hungry with non-perishable foods donated by individuals and stores. Special kitchens have also been set up to feed the hungry whenever they need breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

    The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been serving the less fortunate around the world and around the clock with food pantries, free kitchens, free health clinics, thrift stores, vehicle donation programs, and shelters. Most Catholic churches in USA have “free food days” and other programs to help their members in need. Churches of other denominations also have such programs.

    Tent cities, oftentimes, become homeless individuals’ last resort, after other avenues have been exhausted. While every homeless individual’s progression toward “complete homelessness” varies, some individuals and families have requested for temporary shelter but failed. Low-income housing provided by cities and counties are available for those with steady income and special needs, such as small children and caring for elderly or a terminally-ill family member, thus this avenue is fairly limited and restricted.

    The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimated that there are more than 100 tent cities in the United States. Out of 100 tent cities, only eight were considered legal. The number of illegal “camp cities” keeps rising.

    In California, “notable” tent cities can be found in Little Tijuana in Fresno, Ventura County, Safe Ground in Sacramento, Ontario, American River in Sacramento, and Village of Hope in Fresno. These tent cities are currently considered livable and relatively more comfortable than other tent cities.

    In 2009, in a tent city near downtown Fresno, California, PEN/Hemingway award finalist and PEN/Malamud award winner George Saunders observed the 300 inhabitants by setting up a tent for himself. He had experiences living in ghettos and slums, such as in Kathmandu, Bangkok, Peshawar, Nuevo Laredo, and Jakarta. Fresno proved to be a new experience for him, where he found himself felt more insecure than in those foreign shantytowns. Shoutings, weird smells, and shadowy figures added to the suspense.

    In general, a “tent city” consists of several sub-communities, such as “underpass” community and “open field” community. Tent city dwellers come from various backgrounds, thus they create a self-sustaining “bartering” community. With some “hacking skills,” tent city dwellers would be able to get clean water for drinking, hot water for showering, and electricity for lighting and charging electronics.

    Poverty is a complex issue. It’s not about “laziness” and “low productivity.” It’s not merely about economic inequality and failed economic policies. It’s not just about one’s mental and physical states. It is a combination of many variables. Sometimes the variables are too many to count and oftentimes overlooked or hidden.

    What matters is we have educated ourselves about the complex issues of poverty and aren’t afraid to speak up for the voiceless. The least thing we can do to the cold and the hungry is to accept and appreciate them as fellow human beings, not as some trash ready to be thrown away, like in cities that criminalize homelessness Sarasota (FL), Lawrence (KS), Little Rock (AR), Atlanta (GA), and Las Vegas (NV).

    May this Christmas and many more Christmases are no longer cold and hungry all over the world. ***
    READMORE
  • Belas Kasih di Belantara Jakarta


    PanaJournal - Ini adalah cerita tentang belas kasih—jenis rasa yang konon langka ditemukan di rimba ibu kota. Seorang karyawati bernama Juliana menyelamatkan balita Iqbal Saputra dari siksaan sang penculik, Dadang Supriatna, setelah tak sengaja bertemu di halte bus TransJakarta.

    UNTUK SAMPAI ke kantornya di daerah Kota, Jakarta Utara, Juliana harus menumpang angkutan umum bus TransJakarta. Pagi itu, di halte Sawah Besar, dia duduk bersebelahan dengan bocah lelaki berusia kira-kira tiga tahun. Anak itu terduduk lemas dalam gendongan seorang lelaki, yang belakangan diketahui sebagai Dadang Supriatna, pacar ibu Iqbal yang menculik dan menyiksa si bocah lantaran dendam. Kasusnya sempat heboh diangkat media pada awal tahun.

    Juliana terenyuh melihat kondisi Iqbal yang tampak kepayahan. Di tangan dan kakinya tampak bekas lebam yang sudah membiru. Sesekali balita itu mendesis kesakitan. Juliana memutuskan membuka obrolan dengan Dadang, yang ketika itu mengaku (dan tampak meyakinkan) sebagai ayah kandung Iqbal. Menurut Dadang, mereka datang dari daerah Karawang, Jawa Barat, ke Jakarta untuk mengamen.

    “Ngamen kok, bawa anak, Pak?” tanya Juliana.
     “Dia ngotot ikut.”
    “Anaknya sakit apa?”
    “Ini, dipukulin ibu tiri.”

    Dadang lalu mengangkat kaus dan celana Iqbal, menunjukkan bekas-bekas lebam yang tampak sudah lama. Selama perbincangan, Iqbal hanya diam sambil sesekali mendesis kesakitan. Tatapannya kosong. Tak ada kata-kata keluar dari mulut si bocah. Saat itu, lidah Iqbal baru saja digunting oleh si penculik.

    Juliana melirik jam tangannya, menghitung waktu yang dibutuhkan untuk sampai di kantor. Di hatinya mulai terbersit niat untuk menolong Iqbal dan Dadang. Dia sengaja tak memberi uang karena takut uang itu tidak sampai pada maksud yang sebenarnya, yaitu memeriksa dan mengobati si bocah.

    Bus datang. Ragu-ragu, Juliana memasukinya.

    “Saat itu, saya masih dalam dilema, menolong atau tidak? Tergoda juga untuk memberi uang saja lalu langsung pergi ke kantor. Tidak perlu takut terlambat. Saya yakin itu yang akan dilakukan sebagian besar orang bila berada dalam posisi saya,” papar Juliana.

    Ketika sudah mantap memutuskan menolong Iqbal, Juliana berbalik, tapi Dadang sudah lenyap. Di hati Juliana timbul sebersit rasa menyesal—mengapa ada penderitaan di depan matanya tapi dia tak bisa menolong? “Saya pikir mungkin Tuhan punya rencana lain untuk menolong Iqbal, dan rencana itu tidak melibatkan saya,” kenang Juliana.

    Maka alangkah terkejutnya Juliana ketika berganti bus di halte Stasiun Kota, bertemu lagi dengan Dadang dan Iqbal. Kali ini Dadang tampak memamerkan luka-luka di tubuh Iqbal pada sejumlah ibu-ibu yang berkerumun. Juliana makin bingung melihat tingkah Dadang yang menjadikan Iqbal seperti “tontonan berbayar”.

    Tiba-tiba Iqbal kejang. Juliana setengah berlari, menghampiri Dadang. Kali ini tekadnya bulat sudah: harus menolong si bocah.

    “Pak, anak ini harus ditangani!” Juliana berseru.
    “Ah, dia memang biasa begini,” elak Dadang.

    Tak peduli dengan tanggapan Dadang yang cenderung datar, Juliana segera keluar dari halte. Ibu-ibu yang berkerumun, bubar. Juliana menyewa sepasang ojek: satu untuknya, satu untuk Dadang dan Iqbal. Dia sempat bingung ke mana harus mencari klinik karena tak begitu mengenal daerah tersebut. Juliana pun menginstruksikan kedua tukang ojek untuk membantunya.

    Klinik pertama, tutup. Klinik kedua, antrean praktik dokter terlalu panjang. Saat itu napas Iqbal sudah satu-satu dan dia mulai menangis kesakitan. Juliana panik. Apalagi, kedua tukang ojek tidak tahu lagi klinik atau tempat praktik dokter terdekat. Tapi, Juliana tidak mau menyerah.

    “Pak, kita harus cari lagi. Kalau tidak diobati, saya yakin anak ini tidak mungkin bisa bertahan,” kata Juliana, berulang-ulang.

    Tukang ojek yang memboncengkannya, heran. “Ibu ngapain rusuh, sih? Emang Ibu siapanya?”
    “Bukan siapa-siapanya sih, Pak. Tapi ini kan nyawa, anak kecil pula.”

    “Lah itu, Bapaknya kuatir juga enggak.”

    Dadang memang tampak tenang-tenang saja.

    Di klinik ketiga, Juliana ditolak karena tidak ada dokter anak. Di klinik keempat, belum sempat masuk, suster sudah buru-buru menolak dengan alasan tak punya alat. Juliana sempat ngotot minta bertemu dokter, tapi daripada berlama-lama berdebat dan menghabiskan waktu Iqbal, dia memutuskan mencari klinik lain.

    “Saat itu saya dalam hati merasa miris. Kasihan bener nasib ini anak. Sudah luka-luka, giliran ada orang mau tolong pun, jalannya berliku,” papar Juliana. “Tapi itu justru menguatkan tekad saya bahwa dia harus ditolong, bagaimanapun caranya.”

    Sampailah iring-iringan ojek di Puskesmas Pademangan. Satpam yang berjaga di pintu depan, sigap menyambut mereka. Iqbal segera ditangani oleh seorang dokter umum bernama Zakia Thalib. Kondisi Iqbal yang kritis dan menyedihkan segera menarik perhatian orang-orang di puskesmas tersebut. Selain lebam-lebam di sekujur tubuhnya, ada juga bekas sundutan rokok di puting susu, gigitan, dan luka karena benda tumpul. Ketika celana bocah kecil itu dibuka, tampak buah zakar Iqbal bernanah sampai terlihat dagingnya.

    Astaghfirullahaladzim…” desis Dr. Zakia berkali-kali saat memeriksa bocah kecil itu. Beberapa orang menitikkan air mata karena tak tega melihat kondisi Iqbal yang sangat mengenaskan. Iqbal sendiri hanya mampu menangis kesakitan.

    Begitu kejang Iqbal berhenti, Dr Zakia mengajak Juliana berembuk. Ia merasa fasilitas di puskesmas tak cukup untuk mengobati Iqbal. Karena itu, ia minta persetujuan Juliana untuk merujuk Iqbal ke rumah sakit untuk perawatan lebih lanjut.

    “Ibu ini siapanya?”
    “Saya bukan siapa-siapanya, Bu. Hanya mengantarkan.”
    “Tapi, Ibu setuju kan, kalau anak ini kita rujuk ke RS?”
    “Ambulans itu berapa duit, Dok?”
    “Oh, gratis, gratis semuanya.”
    “Kalau begitu, langsung bawa saja,” kata Juliana, lega.

    Di luar dugaan, Dadang menolak Iqbal dibawa ke rumah sakit. Dia ngotot membawa Iqbal pulang ke Karawang. Juliana, yang berprasangka baik bahwa Dadang sekadar takut uangnya kurang, meyakinkan bahwa semua biaya gratis.

    “Bapak enggak ada Jamkesmas?” tanya Juliana.
    Dadang menggeleng.
    “Mau dibawa ke Karawang saja.”
    “Sekarang ibu tirinya di mana?”
    “Sudah dipenjara. Ini sudah ditangani sama Polres Karawang, kok,” Dadang terus mencoba meyakinkan.

    Saking mengerikannya kondisi Iqbal, semua orang di puskesmas berebutan menanyai Dadang. Di sinilah Juliana mulai curiga karena jawaban Dadang tidak pernah konsisten. Kadang ia menjawab Iqbal sudah disiksa sejak seminggu lalu, kadang dijawab baru kemarin. Tapi, saat itu dia mencoba maklum karena mungkin Dadang memang tak sanggup bercerita secara runtut.

    Dr Zakia kemudian mengusulkan agar Juliana menghubungi Komisi Perlindungan Anak Indonesia (KPAI) untuk meminta advokasi karena kasus Iqbal sudah jelas terkait kekerasan dalam rumah tangga(KDRT). Juliana keluar ruangan untuk menelepon KPAI. Dari sana dia diinstruksikan untuk membuat laporan ke Polres setempat sesuai prosedur. Setelah kasusnya resmi ditangani kepolisian, barulah KPAI akan melakukan pendampingan tanpa dikenai biaya sedikitpun.

    Betapa kagetnya Juliana ketika dia kembali ke ruangan, Dadang sedang menandatangani selembar surat pernyataan. Rupanya, saking ngotot-nya Dadang membawa pulang Iqbal, pihak puskesmas akhirnya menyerah dan membuatkan surat yang isinya menyebutkan bahwa pihak puskesmas tak bertanggung jawab jika ada apa-apa dengan Iqbal, dan tindakan memulangkan Iqbal adalah murni keinginan Dadang sebagai ‘orangtua’.

    “Saya kecewa sekali,” kata Juliana. “Saya merasa kasihan dengan Iqbal. Kalau anak ini dibawa pulang, pasti tidak akan dapat perawatan yang layak. Dalam hati saya seperti ada pertanyaan yang berulang-ulang, 'Kenapa bisa lepas, Kenapa bisa lepas'?”

    Tapi semua sudah telanjur. Ketika hendak menandatangani surat pernyataan, Dadang mengaku tidak punya KTP. Juliana semakin curiga. “Pak, kalau ada apa-apa, nanti dikira Bapak lho, yang mukulin si anak. Kita ke polisi saja karena prosedurnya benar seperti itu,” bujuknya.

    Dadang diam. Satpam puskesmas lalu berinisiatif membelikan rokok dan makan siang agar Dadang tidak kabur. “Dikasih rokok si Dadang itu anteng,” kata Juliana, yang segera menelepon polisi. Tunggu punya tunggu, polisi tak kunjung datang.

    Bagaikan adegan film yang sudah diatur sutradara, di depan puskesmas lewat patroli dari Polsek Pademangan. Juliana dan satpam segera mencegat mereka.

    Bripka Putra dari Polsek Pademangan memasuki puskesmas. Dadang langsung terlompat dari duduknya dan cium tangan. Pertanyaan pertanyaan dari Bripka Putra dijawab dengan terbata-bata. Keterangan Dadang makin tak konsisten. Ketika ditanya dari mana Iqbal mendapat luka-luka di sekujur tubuhnya, Dadang menjawab bahwa Iqbal disiksa ibu tiri.

    “Di mana menyiksanya? Kapan?” Bripka Putra mencecar.
    “Di ruang sidang.”
    “Kok bisa menyiksa di ruang sidang?”
    “Ngg.. ibu tirinya bilang mau peluk dia untuk terakhir kalinya. Eh, tahu-tahu malah ditendang.” “Terus orang-orang lain diam saja begitu? Tidak ada yang menolong?”

    Dadang tidak bisa menjawab. Bripka Putra lalu minta bicara bertiga dengan Juliana dan Dr Zakia Thalib. Satpam diperintahkan untuk menjaga Dadang agar jangan sampai kabur. Bripka Putra menyampaikan kecurigaan dan ingin Dadang dibawa ke kantor secepatnya. Juliana setuju, meski di dalam hati dia masih berpikiran baik bahwa bukan Dadang pelakunya. Apa ada ayah tega menyiksa anaknya sendiri sampai begitu rupa?

    Persis ketika mereka sedang berdiskusi, dari kamar terdengar suara jeritan dan tangis Iqbal. Rupanya Iqbal sudah tak kuat lagi menahan sakitnya. Belakangan di RSUD Koja, Jakarta Utara, baru ketahuan bahwa tangan Iqbal patah di dua tempat. Dan yang mematahkan tangan si bocah tak lain dan tak bukan adalah Dadang sendiri.

    Berdasarkan penelusuran polisi, pernah ada pelapor yang melihat Dadang tengah mengancam Iqbal di depan WC umum. Saat itu Iqbal sedang menangis tersedu-sedu. “Mau diem nggak? Kalau nggak diem, dipatahin nih tangannya,” ancam Dadang. Si pelapor terkejut ketika Dadang sungguh-sungguh mematahkan tangan Iqbal, bahkan sampai dua kali. Malang, saat tiba bersama polisi, Dadang dan Iqbal sudah lenyap.

    Dadang segera dibawa ke kantor Polsek Pademangan dan Iqbal dirujuk ke RSUD Koja. Juliana ikut ke kantor polisi untuk memberi kesaksian. Bripka Putra sempat mau memukuli Dadang agar mengaku, tapi dicegah oleh Juliana. Dia takut kasus ini justru berkembang jadi salah tangkap. Beres memberi kesaksian, Juliana tetap masuk kantor seperti biasa. “Untung bos saya tidak pernah rese bertanya-tanya dari mana saja saya sampai terlambat setengah hari,” Juliana terkekeh.

    Dia memang tak menggembar-gemborkan tindakannya membawa Iqbal ke puskesmas. Ibu dua anak ini merasa tak ada yang terlalu istimewa dengan tindakannya itu. Maka ketika kemudian kasus ini menjadi besar dan dia tiba-tiba harus menerima wawancara dari berbagai media, juga tampil di televisi, Juliana canggung. Di kantor, dia dipuji-puji. Di rumah, suaminya mencandainya setengah menyindir, “Wah, sudah jadi artis kamu, ya.”

    Juliana pun kerap bingung menghadapi pertanyaan-pertanyaan wartawan yang kadang aneh. “Misalnya, ada yang tanya saya terafiliasi dengan organisasi atau gereja apa. Lah, saya saja jarang ke gereja!” Warga Tambora itu tertawa, sembari mengakui dirinya bukanlah orang yang religius.

    Beberapa hari kemudian, Juliana mendapat info bahwa masa kritis Iqbal sudah lewat. Dia pun memutuskan menjenguk Iqbal di RSUD Koja. Di situ sudah ada tante dan kerabat Iqbal yang lain. Dari si tante, Juliana tahu, ternyata memang Dadang yang sudah menculik dan menyiksa Iqbal. Motifnya dendam pada ibu Iqbal, Iis Novianti, yang pernah jadi pacar Dadang.

    “Dadang dihadap-hadapkan dengan Iqbal, lalu Iqbal ditanya apakah orang ini yang sudah menyiksa dia,” cerita tante Iqbal, Irma Nurcahayanti. “Iqbal hanya bisa mengangguk, sambil ketakutan melihat Dadang. Ya sudah, Dadang langsung ditangkap.”

    September lalu, Pengadilan Negeri Jakarta Utara telah menjatuhkan vonis 13 tahun penjara untuk Dadang, tanpa banding. Juliana berharap, suatu hari nanti hukum di Indonesia dapat berbuat lebih dari sekadar mengirim pelaku kekerasan terhadap anak ke penjara.

    Hukuman kurung memang bisa jadi menimbulkan efek jera bagi si pelaku, tapi bagaimana dengan anak yang menjadi korban? Berapa banyak dari mereka yang mengalami trauma, dan tidak memperoleh pendampingan psikologis karena tak ada biaya?

    “Padahal, dengan proses penyembuhan yang tepat, kita bisa memutus rantai perilaku kekerasan berulang. Banyak, kan, para korban yang ketika dewasa justru jadi pelaku?” kata Juliana. “Kalau diterapi dengan baik, anak-anak ini justru bisa menjadi kuat dan menginspirasi sesama korban kekerasan untuk sembuh.” ***
    READMORE
  • Beyond #hashtags: Netizen's Outrage and Hope


    PanaJournal - The case of the regional elections (Pilkada) bill has brought the Democratic Party and its chairman President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono into the spotlight. On Sept. 25, 130 members of the party walked out of the plenary session before voting began on the bill.

    AS A RESULT, only 135 lawmakers agreed on direct elections for regional heads, while 226 others wanted all regional heads to be chosen by local legislative councils. At 2 a.m. the next day, the House of Representatives passed the now controversial law on regional elections.

    Although later the Democrats’ Sutan Bhatoegana claimed that the President’s instruction was originally “all out” instead of “walk out”, the people already felt cheated.

    Earlier, Yudhoyono publicly broadcast his support for direct elections through his party’s YouTube account, “Suara Demokrat”. Hashtags like #shameonyouSBY, #shamedbyyou, and #SukaBohongYa (you like to lie eh?) enliven the Twittersphere. On Sept. 29, the latest hashtag #shamedbyyouagainSBY had been tweeted 40,025 times by 6:40 a.m.

    Are those hashtags forms of digital activism, or merely representations of middle-class fussiness? For the recently resigned Communications and Information minister Tifatul Sembiring, the second possibility is more plausible.

    Tifatul even accused the majority of Twitter users of being teenagers; which means their voices are irrelevant and unimportant. Tifatul also thought of the possibility of the government banning Twitter, just as the governments of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt did.

    Funnily enough, he voiced this thought through his own Twitter account, @tifsembiring.

    From this case we learn that the separation of the real world from the virtual world is no longer relevant. If the Internet is not seen as a valid form of another reality, the elites of the Democrats would not need to respond to any news emerging from cyberspace.

    If the President is not afraid that his image — which he has taken very good care of for the past 10 years — could be destroyed simply because of Twitter hashtags, he would not bother to clarify. And if indeed Tifatul believes Twitter users only comprise teenagers, why should he think of banning it?

    There is something bigger than middle-class fussiness in the case of the Pilkada law and hashtags that attacked Yudhoyono’s image. Currently, Indonesia has surpassed the era where people sit back and watch the elites fight for power. People want to do something, even if it is just to write a 140-character status or to push the “like” button on someone’s Facebook page.

    The scholar W. Russell Neuman writes that the public’s affective intelligence in political communication is affected by both anger as trigger and fear as repressor. Anger increases when people realize they have been treated unfairly by the ruling elite.

    They want to do something about it, but are afraid of what might happen to them as a consequence of their actions. This condition causes anxiety. One way to cope with that is to gather, share, strengthen and inspire each other to fight together. And this is where social media plays its biggest role.

    What happens now is this: people are angry because the ruling elite took away their democratic rights and are fed up because they feel cheated constantly by the President.

    They meet and share thoughts with each other on social media. People start to realize that they are not alone. Many are angry, disgusted and ashamed of the government. And this encourages taking action.

    On Sept. 28, people gathered to collect photocopies of their IDs on Sunday morning’s Car Free Day session at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta. It was part of a social movement called “Indonesian people challenge [regional] election law”. In the book Networks of Outrage and Hope (2012), Manuel Castells mentions some characteristics of social movements.

    Although mostly beginning on the Internet, a movement becomes social when people start to occupy urban space, whether it is a public area or street demonstrations. It is precisely that hybrid between cyberspace and urban space that Castells called “the space of autonomy”.

    So, it is not appropriate to regard the hashtags phenomenon as mere political euphoria, in the same way that we should not define “digital activism” as being extremely talkative on social media.

    Social movements have to occupy both channels, especially considering that during President Yudhoyono’s second term, our Gini Coefficient (a measure of a country’s level of inequality, O meaning perfect equality and 1 meaning perfect inequality) has increased to 0.41 in 2011 from 0.3 in the Soeharto era. There are people without Internet access, and the middle class should be able to embrace them.

    Finally, whether digital activism eventually becomes nothing more than a bunch of tweets and Facebook statuses, or even a form of social change, will depend on two things. First, the extent to which people realize their potential power and are willing to fight for it, and second, the extent to which the government will listen to, and humbly engage, the voice of its people. ***

    As published in The Jakarta Post, October 2, 2014.
    READMORE
  • Death of Print and Rise of Long-Form Journalism


    PanaJournal - Print is dead. And long-form journalism is rising. The digital environment of Internet serves as the perfect backdrop platform for the pair. The Internet provides immediacy and brevity. It also recreates the world by making it more efficient and transparent, which are key to rapid progress of human civilization.

    APPARENTLY, we aren’t going back to print nor to the pre-Internet era. We’re already spoiled by instant responses, lightning-fast pace, ease of analysis supported with transparent and verifiable data, and conciseness of information brought to us in written, visual, and auditory formats. In short, we are used to the conveniences made possible to advance our lives within a few keystrokes and several swipes.

    According to the Pew Internet Project, people particularly use the Internet for four distinct functions: communication, information gathering, personal and business transactions, and entertainment. Thus, we have better get used to with the new normal. We can take online courses with professors located across the Pacific Ocean, we certainly can skim and scan through information quickly too.

    Media experts said that print newspapers will be extinct within this decade, which has been prequeled by the massive drop of print advertisements. Already more than 50 percent of print journalists had been laid off and the growth of this profession is -6 percent (minus six percent).

    This figure showed the failing severity of the state of print publication industry. Graduates of journalism schools are among “the unemployable” job seekers due to lack of vacancies in the industry, as well as other liberal arts graduates. The few vacancies in the publishing industry are now filled by underpaid professionals.

    Because, apparently, being a journalist doesn’t require as rigorous a training like for being a medical doctor. And with a little bit of luck and many hours of self-taught skills, anyone with some knack of writing and excellent reasoning skills can literally break into this industry.

    Print books, print magazines, and print newspapers are likely to occupy museums in the near future. Just like rotary phones, which have been replaced by digital phones, mobile phones, and smartphones. And facsimile copier machines are being replaced by emails and PDF files. Interestingly, hundreds-page lengthy print books are now being replaced by long-form narrative non-fiction journalism.

    Note this. Long-form narrations are replacing lengthy books.

    But print books will be replaced by digital books, which is also called “ebooks” or “electronic books.” They are usually formatted as PDF, MOBI, and EPUB files, which can be read with any tablet computer with ereader apps, Kindle Reader, and Nook Reader.

    Print books of hundreds of pages will be replaced by short ebooks, which are essentially lengthy essays or long-form journalistic articles, due to shorter attention span in reading on computer screens. This means hundreds of print pages are getting streamlined into tens of pages of digital texts.

    Blame the short reading span due to using electronic reading devices. Paper-like reading screens like in Kindle Reader and Nook Reader should solve this problem, thus reading lengthy ebooks shouldn’t cause too much strain on the eyes.

    My Kindle reader application for iPad, for instance, is the home of 15,000+ ebooks now. Imagine how much physical space they would have required to store the same amount of print books in a brick-and-mortar home or office library. I collect various length electronically-published and print-turned-into-digital books. And among my favorites are long-form narrative non-fiction works.

    This shift in reading habit comes with numerous pros, cons, and tremendous opportunities and possibilities.

    Now is the right momentum to start online publications that publish lengthy journalism pieces like New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. More insights can be packed into such pieces. Unlike in brief reporting, in which journalists must write concisely without developing close rapport with readers, long-form journalism gives room to grow.

    An impressive case of transformation is Amazon Kindle Single. This Seattle-based book retailer pioneer is one of the most aggressive game changers in the publishing world. Amazon already acquired The Washington Post, which is one of the most prestigious print newspapers in the world.

    Amazon.com has been renowned for progressively selling, distributing, and publishing ebooks of various length via the Internet with their Web-based online retail platform since early 2000s, in addition to selling millions of consumer items through courier delivery. Amazon now offers ebooks called “Kindle Singles.”

    Kindle Single is a division that publishes carefully selected journalistic pieces and fictional novellas adhering to esteemed publishing standards. Most of them are of 5,000 to 20,000 words. Pretty short for books, but quite long for articles. And this “in between” length is likely to stay for a long time. More publishers are following its footsteps, including niche-specific ones, such as SheBooks.net and embooks.com.

    Here is the reason.

    With such massive overload of today’s information, readers expect writers and publishers to provide high quality content designed for quick enjoyment with the latest gadgets. Tablet computers like iPad and Samsung Galaxy enables the revolution of journalism from analog to digital. From print to digital. From pbook to ebook. From book-length content to long-form journalism content.

    It is interesting to note that with the demise of print industry, Web-based long-form journalism is on the rise. Granddaddies of narrative journalism, such as New Yorker, The Atlantic, The American Scholar, The Morning News, and The Walrus (Canada) are having new competitors, like Kindle Single (a part of Amazon.com), Aeon, Medium-Matter, Guernica, Byliner, Atavist, TheBigRoundTable, and curators like Longform.org and LongReads.com.

    For Indonesia, Panajournal.com is one of the pioneers.

    Long-form journalism has become more popular not because we read longer journalistic pieces, but because we read shorter books in digital format. And long-form journalism is an excellent substitute. Just by saving the long pieces and sending them to a tablet, we can read them at any time with the level of enjoyment of reading a print book. After all, reading attention span has shortened considerably.

    Storytelling has become more popular as well, as a way to balance out the robot-like digitalization of texts, images, videos, and audios. Compelling stories filled with inspiration, motivation, insights, and love bring out good feelings, as the “sterile” ambiance of high-tech environment may feel too “cyborg”-y, which can only be balanced by reminders of how much we feel as human beings.

    Long-form journalism is also a great medium for brand journalism, which is similar to advertorial but more sophisticated in presentation, delivery, and insights. “Brand journalism” gives a strong “after taste,” which “conventional journalism,” such as reporting and journaling, doesn’t. This trait alone is ideal for delivering “branded messages” with sophistication, so readers can still focus on the ideas and messages of the piece itself and not distracted by the brand.

    What is long-form journalism? Is it identical with “narrative nonfiction”? The answer is yes. It is about writing like telling a story, not reporting. Truman Capote in In Cold Blood (Saturday Review, January 22, 1966) wrote, “I got this idea of doing a really serious big work --it would be precisely like a novel, with a single difference: Every word of it would be true from beginning to end.”

    Traditional inverted-pyramid style of journalism is limiting in its structure and word count. It is also a bit awkward when telling the whole story of an incident. The writer’s biases are somewhat “hidden” behind facts and objective details, which usually don’t show much of his or her viewpoint, albeit implicitly.

    The former senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly once made a comment on what constitutes “narrative nonfiction.” He said, “I think [narrative nonfiction]... is essentially a hybrid form, a marriage of the art of storytelling and the art of journalism --an attempt to make drama out of the observable world of real people, real places, and real events. It’s a sophisticated form of nonfiction writing, possibly the highest form that harnesses the power of facts to the techniques of fiction, constructing a central narrative, setting scenes, depicting multidimensional characters and, most important, telling the story in a compelling voice that the reader will want to hear.”

    Essayists and columnists find writing lengthy narrative nonfiction pieces satisfying. They can include direct quotations, citations, and personal opinions without having to worry about the 800-word count limit of a regular op-ed column. They can include scenes and personal viewpoints as if they were creating a film. They can include anecdotal illustrations and deep analytical thoughts derived from various schools. They can be as physical or as philosophical as possible. They can be as literal or as figurative as possible. No one is policing them.

    Such unique traits are especially valuable in this age of storytelling marketing. Yes, its “for profit” side is as remarkable as its “non-profit” side.

    The latest trend in publicity is “no-promotion marketing” or “telling story without selling.” Such long-form narrative nonfiction format allows interviews and stories about a brand to flow naturally, creating the so-called “native” promotion. Just like when a professional photographer’s Instagram account showcases his portfolio, this mixed genre of writing provides a platform for telling stories about good (and bad) traits of a brand naturally and effortlessly.

    Peter Rubie in The Elements of Narrative Nonfiction wrote, “we use stories as a way of making sense of the world around us. We grow up with them, and we crave them like a fix. They are reassuring and comforting in some strange way, perhaps because of their structure and order and their predictability. As children, we often want to be read the same story again and again in an almost hypnotic fascination. But we approach puberty, it slowly dawns on us that like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, many stories are inventions. Despite this apparent “betrayal,” despite “real life” slowly impinging on our shrinking world of fantastic possibilities, we still want to believe in stories.”

    In short, stories have hypnotic qualities that mesmerize us and frame our thinking. And we feed on stories to nourish our mind and soul since the day we were born. It has been our programming, which isn’t going anywhere despite our aging.

    Steve Jobs of Apple computer is the poster child of “story economy,” which explains why people love Apple products. Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why wrote, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” And it applies to both for-profit and non-profit causes.

    How often do you hear stories about celebrities who are interested in humanitarian causes? George Clooney and Angeline Jolie, for example, have their own stories on why they fight for humanity. How often do you hear stories about scientists who are researching for a cure because of personal encounters with the disease? How often do you hear about how rich and famous individuals who had legal issues but eventually thrive?

    Most motivational and inspirational books are filled with stories and anecdotes. Stories about failures and successes give us an opportunity to learn. Contently and the Content Marketing Institute exemplify the latest trend in storytelling with impact. Sites like Upworthy, Mental Floss, and Good are receiving acceptance and popularity. They tell stories, touch people’s hearts, make them think and say “aha!,” and change lives everyday.

    Sure, a long-form journalism narrative nonfiction piece doesn’t necessarily convey feel-good messages. Its main purpose is answering our innate human quest on “why” something occurs in a more in-depth manner than what breaking news covers.

    After all, we live surrounded by stories and live for reading about and telling stories of ourselves, our works, and our hopes. And print is dead.***
    READMORE
  • A Lifetime Under A Flyover: The homeless of Mumbai, India


    PanaJournal - There are slums in Mumbai and then there are the homeless, a word that seems too benign for their condition. Under the broad flyover, connecting Chembur with Ghatkopar, is their home, an uneven ground strewn with pebbles, scattered with chicken feathers and trash. The traffic is blaring deafening horns from all directions. The air is full of dust and the smell of rot.

    AS SOON AS we reach this settlement, the women surround us excitedly, “Last night, they came in a taxi. They tried to drag out our daughter. We beat them and then they ran away.”

    They showed us a copy of the police report they had filed.

    “This is quite common,” says Shashikant Bhalerao, a social worker with Alternative Realities, a not-for-profit organization. “Sometimes, strangers lie down next to a sleeping couple and try to fondle the wife. Sometimes, there is gang rape. The women here can’t even shower with some dignity. People surround them and keep looking. Sometimes, strangers come and throw stones on sleeping women. These people think that the homeless have no dignity and will put up with anything.”

    There were five families settled under this section of the flyover. All these families are related to one another. They had all come from Sholapur, seven hours bus ride from Mumbai. One the other side of the giant pillars, there is another set of families. According to Alternative Realities, there are 150,000 homeless in Mumbai. This population is highly fragmented as small groups tend to settle around where they can find jobs or restaurants distributing away leftover food. Most of the homeless are migrants from other parts of Maharashtra, the same province containing Mumbai.

    Rati, an elderly woman, says, “I have been like this for more than 40 years. I have seen my husband die here, four of my children died here. I saw with my own eyes one of my girls get squashed by a truck right here. We just buried her near that pillar.”

    She hadn’t yet lost her capacity for tears. Shanti, a middle aged woman, relieves her of the memory.

    “Most of us have been around for more than 20 years. Many came as very young. We keep moving. When the government will throw us away from here, we will have to move again. We had no land back in Sholapur. How could we have survived there?”

    It seems almost impossible to get out. And I find it unimaginable to live in such conditions. Humanity seems to have completely failed these people.

    One family has a tattered mattress for a bed. The others are just using old plastic sheets. Every family has to do their own cooking, managed by burning some wood. A young couple has dug in four poles around their sheets and hung old sarees around these to get some privacy.

    “My sister got married to one of the men here. They just went to the temple and came back,” says Shanti, with a smile. I get lost wondering if anything could be more beautiful and more tragic than a wedding under such poverty.

    “Here, have some tea!” a teenage girl hands me a small plastic cup. I am startled at this unexpected hospitality.

    “Please sit down,” one young mother with a baby on her lap, invites me to sit on the only mattress they have in their settlement. I notice their meagre belongings, all wrapped up in three cloth bundles, next to the mattress.

    I ask them how they manage when it rains. “We just move our sheets and the mattress to the spots where there is no water.” But, it is common for the homeless to die from Pneumonia and Tuberculosis, particularly during the rainy season. Life expectancy is abysmally low and infant mortality rates are high.

    At that time of the day, the men had all gone away to work, day jobs: pasting Bollywood posters, digging roads, fixing gutters, cleaning streets; all jobs that the city needs to be done by someone. The women often work as domestic help, if they don’t need to take care of the children. Some are exemplary entrepreneurs, making baskets, charms, brooms, anything they can produce with their meagre means.

    Abhishek Bharadwaj, the founder of Alternative Realities explains, “In this city of glitz and glamour, the image of the homeless doesn’t fit in. Most people have a negative perception of them as drunkards and lazy beggars. The reality is that they have to work very hard to make a living. And their situation is extremely precarious. The unorganized nature of their jobs, the unlimited pool of cheap labour always available to replace them, the general perception of being unwanted and the continuous fear of being evicted; all these leave them with little bargaining power.”

    Anant is the only man around at that time, “Many days I don’t get any work. On a good day, I can get 200 Rs. Some days, I just get 50. Look at my fingers.” They were all bloodied from old wounds. “I get them from pulling ropes to carry baskets full of chicken over my head.”

    Suddenly, a truck appears and parks itself in this settlement of the homeless. Shantha, a teenage girl explains, “This truck parks here every night. It carries around chickens during the day. It is so smelly at night. See all these feathers here. There are many rats too. Some young babies had their fingers bitten off by the rats.”

    There was an abundance of babies and young children. The very young ones were on their mothers’ laps or inside makeshift cradles hanging from the iron beams of the flyover. One of them had caught jaundice. “No, I didn’t go to the doctor,” says his mother, still in her teens, “I just got this charm as a necklace.”

    I am distracted by the kids who have begun swinging from the clothes hanging from the flyover’s beams. Each one of them, in their attempt to outdo the other, grab me and pull me to applaud their swing as the most daring. Some bring kittens for me to see. I get the attention of Nakul, a boy of five or six, “I don’t go to school. There is so much work. During the day, I have to wash all the dishes and also bring water.”

    Nearby, a young mother sighs, “I want them to study and get out of here. But sometimes, I have to send them to ask money from people stuck in traffic.” Alternative Realities is working to encourage such families to send their kids to state run Anganwadis, centres for providing basic pre-school education and health and nutrition services. They have also built homeless libraries in a few settlements from donated books to arouse curiosity and inculcate a habit of reading.

    Jyoti, the girl who had handed me the tea, laughs, “You are holding your cup as if it is such a precious thing. You can throw it anywhere. There is so much trash around anyway.” She had been born under a flyover and had never known any other world.

    One lady approaches us to show her photographs, “These are for my ration card application.” She shows all of them one by one, 15 identical photographs. The ration cards, identity documents required to buy subsidized food under a state scheme, are prized possessions of the homeless.

    “The society needs to acknowledge its need for such people,” says Abhishek, “They are fully capable of sustaining themselves, unless they are disabled, mentally unstable or too old. But we need to ensure that they have proper documents like ration cards, election cards, etc. so that they can access the public support schemes for the urban poor. We are also campaigning for the city’s planning to consider their existence and their needs and accordingly provide for shelters or affordable housing. Finally, we need to change our negative perception of them. We tend to dismiss them so easily but once you meet them you understand how wonderful these people are and how their aspirations are not very different from ours.”

    The sun is setting. The women are patiently waiting for their men. The youngest baby is being cuddled by the elders. The children, who rarely hear a kind word from the outside world, are still swinging. The teenage girls are sweeping the area around their sheets, trying to keep it as clean as is possible in this setting. The traffic intensifies. Mumbai is dreaming of becoming Shanghai, hoping for more towering skyscrapers, neat boulevards and exclusive public spaces. The homeless are dreaming of a ration card, a small shelter, a night without fear of molestation and an escape for their children from under the flyovers. Will the city’s dreams carry along theirs too? ***
    READMORE
  • Farida dan Kampung Janda


    PanaJournal - Seorang insinyur mengumpulkan bukti serta mencatat pelanggaran-pelanggaran hak asasi manusia di Desa Cot Keng, Aceh. Temuannya mengegerkan khalayak ramai. Satu per satu kasus pelanggaran HAM yang sebelumnya ditutupi, terkuak.

    PEREMPUAN itu mengenakan pakaian dan jilbab serba hitam. Dia adalah Farida Hariyani, 48 tahun, seorang insinyur pertanian yang memilih menjadi aktivis perempuan dan Hak Asasi Manusia (HAM). Farida mengawali perjalanannya dengan melakukan advokasi terhadap Desa Cot Keng, yang dikenal dengan sebutan Kampung Janda karena aksi tentara menghabisi para lelaki di sana. Peristiwa ini terjadi pada awal tahun 1990. Minggu, 7 Juni 2014 lalu, kami bicara panjang lebar di ruang tamu rumahnya di Kompleks Perumnas Rawa, Kecamatan Pidie.

    “Saya melihat kekerasan terhadap masyarakat dilakukan oleh negara. Manusia, kan, punya hak hidup. Tiap pulang kampung, selalu ada bunyi senjata menyalak. Pagi-pagi orang berbisik-bisik: Semalam ada yang dipukul? Ada yang ditembak?” kata Farida, mengenang serangkaian kejadian di kampung halamannya. “Saya tergugah. Rasa-rasanya ayam mati saja tidak begitu.”

    Farida lahir di Ulee Glee, Kecamatan Bandar Dua, Pidie Jaya pada 15 Januari 1966. Sebelum pemekaran pada tahun 2007, Pidie Jaya merupakan bagian dari Kabupaten Pidie. Lulus SMA Mugayatsyah Banda Aceh tahun 1985, Farida meneruskan studinya di Universitas Iskandar Muda Banda Aceh, Fakultas Pertanian, Jurusan Budidaya Pertanahan. Menjelang kelulusan, Farida sering pulang kampung ke Pulo Ulee Glee karena harus mengerjakan praktik lapangan sekaligus menyusun skripsi. Saat itulah, dia melihat segala bentuk kesewenang-wenangan Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) terhadap masyarakat.

    Saat itu, desa-desa diberi kode: putih, merah, dan hitam. “Putih artinya tidak ada GPK, merah banyak GPK, sedangkan hitam adalah desa yang harus diawasi terus. Desa tempat saya tinggal kebetulan putih,” kata dia.

    GPK alias Gerakan Pengacau Keamanan adalah sebutan yang diberikan kepada Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) oleh TNI. Julukan tersebut dimaksudkan sebagai label buruk untuk GAM. Tapi, nyatanya, GAM tetap popular di tengah-tengah masyarakat.

    Farida membenarkan letak jilbabnya, lalu meraih toples di depannya. Sesaat kemudian, ditingkahi suara renyah kue kering, dia menuturkan hal yang melatarbelakanginya menyuarakan HAM dan mendampingi korban pemerkosaan serta tindak kekerasan.

    ***

    Pada tahun 1992, seorang keponakan laki-laki Farida yang tinggal di Medan, Sumatera Utara, pulang kampung. Berkali-kali Farida mengingatkan keponakannya itu untuk tidak keluar rumah lantaran keadaan rawan.

    “Kamu baru pulang, tidak boleh keluar sembarangan dulu.”
    “Suntuk di rumah. Memangnya kalau tidak salah, akan dipukul?”

    Farida tak mampu menahan niat keponakan laki-lakinya itu untuk pergi ke pos jaga, sekadar nongkrong dengan para pemuda desa. Sekitar pukul 20.00 WIB, melintas tiga tentara. Saat itu, setiap ada tentara yang lewat, masyarakat harus menyapa atau menegur tentara-tentara tersebut. Namun, malam itu, keponakan Farida dan kawan-kawannya lalai, barangkali karena terlalu asyik main catur. Tiga tentara lalu memanggil kawan-kawan mereka. Para pemuda desa dan keponakan Farida disuruh masuk parit ukuran tiga meter, lalu ditarik ramai-ramai. Karena badannya besar, ia kesulitan keluar. Bahunya lecet-lecet dan berdarah. Ia pulang lebam-lebam dan basah, sisa dimandikan dengan air comberan.

    Farida baru tahu keponakannya dihajar dan dikerjai tentara tatkala mendengar suara air di kamar mandi tengah-tengah malam. “Cek, betul seperti Cek bilang,” ujar Farida, menirukan ucapan keponakannya saat itu.

    Cek adalah panggilan untuk adik ibu atau adik ayah dalam bahasa Aceh.

    Tak hanya main hajar, tentara juga bisa menggunakan harta-benda penduduk kampung sesuka mereka. Suatu kali, ada perintah dari Keuchik (kepala desa) untuk mendata kekayaan penduduk kampung; TV, motor, bahkan sepeda. Farida protes.

    “Untuk apa semua ini, Pak Keuchik?”
    “Disuruh tentara!”
    “Iya, tapi untuk apa?”
    “Saya tidak tahu.”

    Rupanya, ujar Farida, tentara menggunakan harta-benda milik masyarakat tersebut untuk bersenang-senang. Motor keluarganya disuruh isi oli dan minyak penuh, lalu dibawa pergi. TV di rumah juga diambil. Dengan geram, Farida mengintip ke mana kendaraannya dibawa. Ada tentara yang rupanya belum bisa bawa motor, sambil operasi baru belajar. Ada pula yang pakai motor untuk memboncengkan perempuan. Farida bertanya pada dirinya sendiri, “Ada apa ini? Ditindas luar biasa! Tentara pinjam selama 10 hari. Kadang-kadang ada yang dibawa pulang sebulan, tak boleh tanya-tanya. Ada yang hilang juga.”

    Sebuah insiden akhirnya memutus habis kesabaran Farida: sandal adiknya hilang saat tentara datang mengambil motor. Dia yakin sandal itu diambil tentara karena di kampung mereka tidak pernah ada barang hilang. Farida semakin yakin sebab saat ke meunasah (surau), ia melihat si tentara memakai sandal milik sang adik. Dia lalu memutuskan pergi ke pos tentara untuk melaporkan hal tersebut kepada komandan. Karena motornya masih diambil, Farida naik sepeda. Dia juga tak bilang-bilang pada keluarga. Di depan pos, dia melihat beberapa tentara tengah berseloroh antara satu sama lain. Farida menyapa mereka dalam bahasa Indonesia. Tentara senang pada penduduk yang bisa bahasa nasional. Di Aceh, pada saat konflik, tak bisa berbahasa Indonesia adalah sebuah petaka!

    “Ada apa, Dik?” tanya seorang tentara, setengah merayu.
    “Saya mau jumpa komandan.”
    “Untuk apa? Sama kami saja.”
    “Nggak! Saya ada perlu sama komandan. Bisa panggil sebentar?” Farida sengaja bernada ketus.

    Komandan tentara keluar menjumpai Farida.“Pak, sepeda motor saya dipinjam berapa hari lagi? Saya, kan, mau pakai. Saya juga mau mengabdi pada negara, pada kampung saya. Saya ini orang pertanian. Saya mau kasih penyuluhan,” kata Farida.

    Si komandan membuka catatan, mengecek jadwal pengembalian motor. Farida menyeletuk, “Yang anehnya lagi, Pak, sambil ambil motor saya, nyuri sandal juga.”

    “Ah, nggak mungkin,” komandan tentara kaget mendengar kata-kata Farida. Kebetulan, ada sandal adiknya di atas anak tangga. Farida mengambil sandal tersebut dan menyodorkannya ke wajah si komandan, yang terperanjat dan langsung memanggil anak buahnya. Ia menampar si tentara yang mencuri sandal adik Farida. “Bapak tak usah tampar-tampar dia di depan saya. Bapak ajari saja anak buah bapak, jangan ada lagi kejadian seperti ini.” Farida berkata, dingin.

    Kira-kira dua bulan setelah kejadian itu, datang lagi kabar yang membuatnya marah. Seorang penjaga kebun kelapa milik keluarga menjumpai ibunya dan berkata, “Mi Wa, pohon kelapa di kebun dipotong tentara.” Farida berang. “Mereka (tentara-Red) tidak bilang apa-apa. Abang saya baru pulang dari Jakarta. Kata dia, ‘Jangan pergi ke pos tentara, nanti diperkosa.’ Saya jawab: ‘Saya kemarin duduk di tempat terima tamu.’”

    Farida ternyata ingin melabrak komandan tentara. Kali ini bukan komandan tentara di desa, tapi di kecamatan. Pasalnya, menurut si penjaga kebun, pohon-pohon kelapa yang ditebang untuk program ABRI masuk desa. Sebelum pemisahan antara TNI dan Polri pada 1999, keduanya tergabung dalam Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia (ABRI). Farida menghadap komandan dan berujar dengan nada tinggi, “Saya punya kebun kelapa dan sekarang di kebun itu sudah bisa main bola. Kami sebenarnya mengizinkan dipotong untuk kepentingan umum, asalkan minta izin.”

    “Oh,” kata komandan tentara tersebut, setelah mengingat-ingat ihwal tersebut, “Warga di situ bilang itu punya orang kaya. Kata mereka boleh.”
    “Kalau orang miskin mana ada kebun kelapa. Batang kelapa tidak tumbuh sendiri, Pak, yang tanam manusia."
    “Jadi bagaimana?”
    “Ya, bayarlah. Ayah saya tentara juga. Lebih gagah dari Bapak,” kata Farida, menceritakan kembali kejadian tersebut dengan tertawa lepas.

    Ayah Farida, Muhammad Daud Bugis, sebelumnya adalah Tentara Darul Islam di bawah pimpinan Teungku Daud Beureueh. Setelah Teungku Daud Beureueh turun gunung, tentara-tentara DI/TII diterima sebagai TNI. Muhammad Daud Bugis juga pernah menjabat sebagai camat. Setelah mendapat uang ganti rugi, Farida pun pulang. Tanpa dinyana, desa tempat tinggalnya gempar karena Farida pergi ke pos tentara. Ibunya, Fatimah, memarahinya. Ayahnya lebih marah lagi. Farida sampai harus menjelaskan berkali-kali, dia hanya menuntut ganti rugi atas pohon-pohon kelapa yang ditebang oleh TNI.

    “Katanya, Bapak tentara, pemberani,” kata Farida pada ayahnya. “Anak tentara, kan, harus berani juga.”
    “Tidak ada berani-berani! Duduk di rumah!” Ayahnya menghardik.

    ***

    Rasa geram dan pahit karena diperlakukan tak adil oleh tentara, semakin menjadi-jadi ketika Farida menjumpai kenyataan di Cot Keng, sebuah desa yang terletak di kaki bukit di kawasan Ulee Glee, Kecamatan Bandar Dua, Pidie Jaya, sekitar 175 km timur Banda Aceh. Daerah ini dicapai sekitar tiga jam berkendara dari Ibu Kota Provinsi Aceh. Nama desa tersebut, berasal dari kata Cot, yang berarti puncak; dan kereng: kering. Penduduk di Cot Keng, pada awal 1990-an sekitar 168 jiwa, dengan jumlah pria hanya sekitar sebanyak 21 orang. Mereka habis dibantai tentara.

    Minggu, 29 Juni 2014, saya menyambangi desa yang dijuluki “Kampung Janda” itu. Spanduk Calon Presiden Prabowo-Hatta terpampang di sejumlah pagar kebun milik warga. Jalan di sejumlah desa di kawasan Ulee Glee kebanyakan telah teraspal. Tapi, jalan menuju Cot Keng masih berkerikil dan berbatu. “Masih dalam proses. Akan diaspal,” kata seorang warga yang saya temui di pos jaga. Stiker bergambar Prabowo-Hatta dengan kopiah hitam dan gambar Burung Garuda merah ditempel di pos jaga itu.

    Saya pergi ke kios di dekat pos jaga, membuka obrolan dengan sejumlah pria di tempat tersebut, sekaligus mengutarakan niat kedatangan saya. Tiba-tiba, seorang pembeli menyambar obrolan kami. “Itu,” kata dia, seraya menunjuk spanduk Prabowo-Hatta di pagar kebun, “pembunuh orang Aceh.”

    Si pemuda itu lalu menghidupkan mesin sepeda motornya dan berlalu.

    Tak sulit menggambarkan Cot Keng. Ia tak jauh berbeda dengan desa-desa lain di Kabupaten Pidie dan Pidie Jaya, Aceh. Pohon pinang, kelapa, kedondong, cokelat, dan pohon pisang—paling tidak, satu dari jenis pohon tersebut—ada di setiap rumah warga. Sawah diapit oleh bukit-bukit yang berkelok-kelok. Permukaan tanahnya landai.

    Saya menemui Juwairiyah Ismail, 65 tahun. Dia berperawakan kecil dan berkulit gelap. Nada bicaranya nyaring dan meledak-ledak. Dia adalah salah satu korban konflik yang dibawa Farida ke Jakarta. Seorang lagi, Siti Aminah, tak bersedia diwawancarai. Dari Juwairiyah saya mendapatkan keterangan yang sama dengan apa yang diutarakan Farida, ihwal pembunuhan sejumlah lelaki di desa tersebut. Ibu empat orang anak itu berbicara dalam bahasa Aceh sepanjang wawancara.

    Pada hari ke-29 puasa, Senin tahun 1990, kata Juwairiyah, masyarakat di Cot Keng mengumpulkan uang untuk menyiapkan bubur di meunasah. “Di sini jika satu hingga 29 puasa, itu, masak kanji. Tapi kalau tutup puasa (29 puasa-Red), kami buat bubur,” kata dia, mengenang peristiwa 24 tahun silam. Tapi, tutur Juwairiyah, saat tentara menggeledah orang-orang di pos jaga tepat pada Hari Raya Idul Fitri, malapetaka itu datang. Di saku Munir, sekretaris desa, tentara menemukan secarik kertas bertuliskan “sumbangan”. Munir adalah suami Siti Aminah.

    “Kami kumpulkan uang buat bubur. Dikira tentara, itu sumbangan untuk GPK,” ungkapnya. “Semua dicari. Enam orang dihabisi. Munir ditangkap hari itu juga. Jasadnya lebih dari seminggu baru ditemukan. Sedangkan Pak Keuchik ditembak di Keude Ulee Glee. Jasadnya ditemukan di Blacan, Meureudu.”

    Suami Juwairiyah, Yusuf bin Muhammad Ali ditembak saat sedang bekerja di sawah. Sejumlah lelaki lainnya memilih lari meninggalkan kampung dengan hanya berbekal baju yang ada di badan. Istri mereka menganggap mereka telah meninggal. Diculik dan dibunuh! Setelah Keuchik Hanafiah alias Abu Cut meninggal, TNI menunjuk Muhammad Sufi Husein sebagai penggantinya. “Saya tak punya pilihan. Kalau tidak mau, akibatnya tak sanggup saya bayangkan,” kata pria kelahiran 1947 itu.

    Dia mengenang saat-saat sulit menjadi kepala desa di Cot Keng dari tahun 1990 hingga 1998. “Orang dipukul sampai pingsan, disuruh kasih air. Ketika terjaga, dipukul lagi,” kata dia. Saat TNI masih mencari-cari sejumlah nama pada secarik kertas celaka itu, selama tiga hari tiga malam Husein tidur di atas pohon mangga di depan rumahnya. “Tiap disuruh ambil mayat, mayat-mayat itu harus dibawa pulang dengan gerobak sorong,” ujarnya. “Saat itu tak seramai sekarang. Hanya ada 30 Kepala Keluarga (KK).”

    ***

    Farida pulang-pergi Banda Aceh-Ulee Glee untuk merampungkan skripsi. Pada suatu sesi konsultasi dengan pembimbingnya, Ir Abdul Gani Nurdin, Farida tak bisa berkonsentrasi. Dia teringat kekejaman yang terjadi di Kampung Janda. Farida kemudian menceritakan perihal tersebut pada Abdul Gani Nurdin, yang lekas tertarik. Sejak itu, mereka tak lagi banyak membahas tentang tugas akhir. Farida lalu memutuskan bekerja di Yayasan Masyarakat Desa (Yadesa) yang diketuai oleh pembimbingnya itu.

    Tugas mulanya adalah mencatat kasus pelanggaran HAM, pemerkosaan, dan tindak kekerasan di Cot Keng, juga menjadi penyuluh. Farida menjadi pegawai honorer di Dinas Kehutanan Pidie. Dia mengajar masyarakat Cot Keng membaca. “Kadang sepeda motor jatuh rantai,” kenang Farida. “Pakai lampu minyak, itu masih. Akhirnya di desa tersebut bisa masuk air bersih.”

    Farida juga fokus pada pengembangan ekonomi. Pasalnya, sepeninggal suami, para perempuan Cot Keng kebingungan bertahan hidup dengan anak-anak. Hidup mereka masih sangat bergantung pada suami. Farida membina mereka. “Kalau bilang HAM pada tentara, mana boleh masuk ke kampung itu. Harus penyuluhan.”

    Setelah reformasi, Farida dan Abdul Gani Nurdin berniat membongkar kejahatan negara terhadap masyarakat di Kampung Janda. “Farida, kita tunjukkan ke seluruh negeri. Bawa korban ke negara, biar negara tahu ada kekerasan yang negara lakukan,” kata Farida, menirukan ucapan Abdul Gani Nurdin padanya saat itu.

    Mereka tidur di rumah Munir Said Thalib di Bekasi. Waktu itu tahun 1998. Di Jakarta masih ada asap bekas pembakaran, sisa demonstrasi menuntut Soeharto mundur. Farida dan Abdul Gani Nurdin pergi ke Komnas HAM. Sayang, data yang mereka bawa ditolak karena berasal dari tahun 1990, sedangkan Komnas HAM baru berdiri tahun 1993. Mahasiswa Aceh di Jakarta marah. Kursi ditendang, kantor diobrak-abrik. Barulah data yang mereka ajukan diterima.

    Siti Aminah sehari dua kali pingsan. Perempuan itu trauma.

    Akhirnya data sudah masuk DPR, Mabes ABRI, dan Komnas HAM. Mereka berkata akan pikirkan Aceh. Ketika pulang, Munir minta surat pada Mabes ABRI agar Farida dan warga kampungnya dilindungi. Tak ada handphone. Lima belas hari kemudian, DPR RI turun ke Aceh. Farida diundang. Munir Said Thalib adalah aktivis dan pejuang HAM Indonesia. Ia meninggal karena diracun arsenik dalam penerbangan menuju Belanda untuk melanjutkan studi masternya di bidang hukum.

    Malam kedua mereka di Jakarta, Ghazali Abbas Adan yang saat itu anggota DPR RI asal Aceh menjemput Farida, Abdul Gani Nurdin, dan kedua korban: Juwairiyah Ismail dan Siti Aminah di rumah Munir. Kemudian dia membawa mereka ke rumah dinas di Kalibata. “Saya fasilitasi mereka. Fraksi PPP mendesak DPR RI. Lalu terbentuklah Tim Pencari Fakta (TPF-Red). Papua satu tim dan untuk Aceh satu tim,” kata Ghazali Abbas Adan, Selasa, 17 Juni 2014.

    Dalam kunjungan ke Aceh saat itu, Ghazali Abbas Adan bertindak sebagai penerjemah dari bahasa Aceh ke bahasa Indonesia, dan sebaliknya. Dia merasa berterima kasih kepada Farida. Kejahatan-kejahatan kemanusiaan yang sebelumnya belum pernah terdengar, terkuak. “Sebagai dewan yang mewakili Aceh, saya sambut mereka,” ujar Ghazali. “Kami ingin seluruh Indonesia tahu ada pelanggaran HAM berat di Aceh.”

    Pada Pemilu Legislatif 2014 lalu, Ghazali Abbas Adan terpilih sebagai anggota DPD asal Aceh.

    ***

    “Terima kasih ya, Pak, sudah ke sini. Bapak ke lapanganlah,” kata Farida pada Hari Sabarno, purnawirawan TNI yang ketika itu mengetuai TPF. Jabatan politik tertinggi Sabarno: Menteri Dalam Negeri Kabinet Gotong Royong. Kini, dia mendekam di balik jeruji setelah dinyatakan terbukti terlibat kasus korupsi pengadaan mobil pemadam kebakaran.

    “Apalagi perempuan ini, banyak sekali tuntutan! Ini, kan, sudah di lapangan,” tutur Hari dengan gaya militernya.
    “Bapak, kan, punya anak di sini. Bapak titip anak di sini.” Farida merendahkan suaranya dan bicara dengan nada sedikit merengek.

    “Jadi kenapa?”
    “Bapak lihat kelakuan mereka di sini. Sama juga seperti di Jakarta.”
    “Bagaimana maksudmu?”
    “Bapak turun ke Pidie, ke daerah-daerah di mana banyak anak buah Bapak.”
    “Okelah!” Hari setuju, setengah membentak.

    Tapi, Farida mengingat, TPF tidak bilang kapan turun ke daerah. Dua hari kemudian Farida mendapat informasi dari Ghazali Abas.

    “Dik, besok mereka turun.”
    “Jadi apa yang harus saya lakukan, Bang?”
    “Kumpulkan korban.”

    Farida lekas-lekas memberitahu beberapa korban, akan ada kedatangan anggota DPR. Rupanya, berita tersebut menyebar dari ke mulut-mulut dengan cepat. Hari itu, kantor Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Kabupaten (DPRK) Pidie dipenuhi orang. Truk dan mobil bak terbuka berjajar di ruas jalan. Sigli seperti sepotong kue kering yang digerogoti semut. Farida sendiri tak tahu berapa jumlah janda di Pidie. Saat itu sudah disiapkan mobil pick-up untuk para korban di Cot Keng. Korban dari Geumpang dan Tiro juga turun. Pemandangan kali itu tak terbayangkan. Sigli hitam. Jalan macet. Orang-orang membludak di kantor DPRK Pidie.

    “Saya punya kawan wartawan, Nona namanya,” cerita Farida. “Saya jadi berani karena ada dia. Yang lebih berani lagi, kawan saya Noni, seorang dosen di Universitas Jabal Ghafur. Noni menikah dengan anggota GAM dan berada di luar negeri. Drum-drum dia tendang. Tidak mau berantam dengan serdadu. Mereka orang diperintah, kita cari bos-bos!”

    Rupanya, tidak semua korban dibolehkan masuk. Ghazali Abbas dan Farida putar otak. “Pintu utama gedung DPR, kan, satu dibuka, satu lagi direkatkan. Saya bilang: Abang masuk ke dalam, nanti lepaskan perekat bawah dan atas pintu yang tertutup itu. Nanti saya kasih aba-aba.”

    Sementara yang lainnya sudah berbaris, Ghazali Abbas bersiap-siap membuka pintu. Massa menerobos ke dalam. Rombongan di depan, sekitar 20 orang, tumbang ke lantai. Mereka lalu duduk tertib di lantai. Lima orang korban menuturkan cerita mereka, begitu pahit sampai mata Hari Sabarno berkaca-kaca mendengarnya. “Dari situlah, mereka turun ke kamp-kamp statis. ke Rumoh Geudong dan ke Bukit Janda. Beribu orang datang. Bertahap-tahap itu. Tidak terjadwal sebelumnya,” tutur Farida.

    TPF turun ke desa-desa di Kabupaten Pidie, Aceh Utara, dan Aceh Timur. Dari kasus penculikan, pembunuhan, penyiksaan sampai pemerkosaan yang dilakukan “aparat”, dikisahkan secara gamblang oleh masyarakat korban. Beberapa bulan kemudian, Wiranto yang saat itu menjabat sebagai Jenderal TNI, mencabut status DOM (Daerah Operasi Militer) di Aceh.

    Farida Hariyani mendapat Anugerah HAM Yap Thiam Hien pada tahun 1998. Saat ini dia menjabat sebagai Direktur Pengembangan Aktivitas Sosial Ekonomi Aceh (PASKA). Di Cot Keng, tak ada warga yang tidak mengenalnya. ***
    READMORE
  • READ MORE POST