Interview With Bati

Bati discusses his experience as a member of ANSOR during the Indonesian Massacres of 1965, and the political situation of his community until 1968.

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Born into an underprivileged family, Bati recalls starting work as an umbrella trader right from childhood, making and selling umbrellas made of paper and cloth. When the business declined over time, he switched to working as a farm laborer. In his teen years, he joined Hansip (Village Security Youth), a national civil defense organization with his classmates. Hansip drew its membership from youths of all political persuasions in Indonesia. He worked with colleagues from ANSOR, Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) Youth, and the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI)’s Pemuda Rakyat when on guard duty in the village, and they shared a good working relationship.

Such an amicable relationship, however, did not last after the events of 1965. Bati claims that the PKI’s plan to attack the generals was leaked in advance, allowing ANSOR to react swiftly. His first personal experience of the massacres came shortly after, when his friend, a Quranic teacher, was killed by pro-PKI soldiers in his own house. Bati was investigated by the ANSOR leadership, as he was one of the last people to see the victim alive earlier in the day, and he denied his involvement. Later, the police also called him for interrogations. Fearing that he would be persecuted, he sought the assistance of an elder who taught him a mantra to keep him safe. Eventually, he was not charged. 

As he was affiliated with the Nahadlatul Ulama (NU), he was required to join ANSOR, and the organization directly recruited him through a home visit. He then held dual membership in ANSOR and Hansip. ANSOR youth also carried out killings against identified PKI leaders in the community. Bati notes that these killings were facilitated and authorized by the police. Civilians who detained PKI members would hand them over to the police, who would then assign the victims to ANSOR units in different localities, according to weekly quotas. ANSOR units would be notified in advance through the phone. Victims approved for execution would be transported from the police station to the villages, where ANSOR members would escort them to mass graves in the graveyard, and kill them by slashing their necks from behind during the walk. Bati participated in these escort operations, but was unwilling to kill, merely following his more aggressive friends. He always placed himself in the front of the escort party to avoid witnessing the execution. In particular, he recounts the killing of PKI leader Kabir and his wife, wealthy merchants who wore their valuables to the grave. Pemuda Rakyat disbanded during the massacres, and PKI members exited Hansip. However, they were not attacked, and merely remained at home.

When the Trisula Operation began in Blitar in 1968, many NU members from Soro moved to Blitar. At the time, he was deployed as a Hansip guard to the river crossing at the Santu River. Regulations required residents to carry a travel permit to cross the river, and he was responsible for checking their paperwork. He also shares that NU members watched farmers supported by the PKI harvesting rice from the lands of wealthy farmers in Soro, in the name of “profit sharing”; which fueled their anger against the party. However, the farmers were unable to plant a new rice crop on those lands, as ANSOR attacked them.

Ultimately, Bati explains that many killings were not ideologically motivated, but instead carried out over personal vendettas, or to punish petty criminals. Further, people were suspected of being PKI members if they had found jobs (often teacher positions) with the PKI’s assistance, even if they were not formally party members. He also suggests that while the executioner praised God before slashing the victims, the PKI did not mock the religion, and that the tensions between PKI and NU were not due to religious sentiments being hurt. The various youth groups mocked one another to grow their popularity and membership. He also notes that the general atmosphere in the village the morning after the killings was calm, and life proceeded as usual during the day. The soldier who killed his friend was eventually convicted, but escaped prison; and Bati is uncertain whether he escaped independently or was deliberately released. Today, many of Bati’s former compatriots have also passed away, and he is no longer in contact with any surviving colleagues.


Questioner: What was the story behind Mrs Kabir’s detention?

Bati: She was with PKI. Kabir (her husband) was a PKI leader. So was Mr. Boto. His house was near here. He was a teacher. He was teaching at the school located west of the Soro village market. He was a PKI leader in Soro village, with Mr. Kabir. That was a long time ago. Then there was a period of rioting (September 30th, 1965), in which the PKI moved first by killing the generals. But the secret was leaked, and then the NU people moved quickly. That’s the story. So, actually the PKI moved first, but the secret was leaked. If it had not been leaked, the Muslims would have been slaughtered. Because it was leaked, the NU moved first. 

Questioner: How old you when the events of 1965 occurred?

Bati: I forget exactly. But I was already a Hansip (civil defense) member in 1965. Murwani was my friend in Hansip. Mawan, Turmidu, Bangi, and Rosidi (who married a woman from Binrejo village) were my friends from school. 

So, the events at the time were driven by the PKI. The PKI had a mass organization, Pemuda Rakyat. Then NU had its own youth organization named Anshor. But in Hansip, there were members from PKI, NU and PNI. Because Hansip belonged to the state.

Questioner: How did the murder of Mrs. Roping's husband occur in Gadi hamlet, Soro village?

Bati:  Oh, Mr. Mahisa. Mr. Mahisa was a Quran reciter (ustad). During the Gestapo era, he was doing recitations at Mr. Darsi's house, which was to the north of Karyo's house. At that time I was afraid, you know. I was afraid because that afternoon, Mr. Mahisa and I prayed at Mr. Dula's small mosque (mushola), then I was asked to go to the north to buy cigarettes. At that time, Poniron’s son-in-law was performing shadow puppetry (wayang kulit). So, that afternoon I was with him, and that night Mr. Mahisa was shot. The soldier who shot him was Drapso, his father-in-law was Sumo (a PKI member). During the commotion, I was questioned by the officials. I was scared because I was with Mr. Mahisa before he was killed. I could also be punished or killed. I could only say "I’ll just surrender".

I was questioned by Anshor officials in Blitar, namely Yukabi, the leader of NU Blitar, with 5 other people. I was called to Maram's house (NU Soro leader). I was very anxious. If I said the wrong thing, I could be punished. But I stuck to my word that I was with Mr. Mahisa praying at Mr. Dula's small mosque. Then I walked north to the shop to buy cigarettes. That was all. When I was summoned to the police station in Blitar district, I still answered the same. My mother sneezed (hearing this news) because she was very worried.   

Then, 7 days after Mr. Mahisa's death, I immediately ran to Grandpa Sani's house in Degan hamlet (an NU leader). I told him about my relation to Mr. Mahisa's death. Grandpa Sani calmed me down and said, "Nothing will happen to you. Just relax." Then I was given a mantra and asked to practice it. If I was called by the police again, I was asked to say it silently in front of the gate of the police station and stomp my feet three times on the earth. And thank God, nobody called me up.

Questioner: Was Mr. Mahisa shot before or after September 30th, 1965?

Bati: That was when the September 30th 1965 movement was in full swing.

Questioner: Was Mr. Mahisa shot after the assassination of the generals in Jakarta, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes; when the NU movement was in full swing. I was already a big boy at that time, I was already a Hansip. If I had to stab someone at that time, I would have been able to. But I didn't want to (stab the PKI). I never participated in hacking the PKI. I took part in guarding the village after September 30th, 1965. If someone invited me to kill (PKI members), I avoided it.

Questioner: Why Grandpa?

Bati: I just don't want to (kill). We are both living beings. Sometimes there were also those who said that you could execute personal vendettas in (killing). For example, if there was some bad blood with this person, so I would send whoever disliked them, and send men to kill that person. He had to be killed because of this. In fact, it was not always as was said. Here, many who were killed were thieves. For example, Saera… He was just a thief, a bastard... I really didn't want to. Because killing a fellow human being is a sin. 

Questioner: Why was Mr. Mahisa shot by the army? 

Bati: The NU and PKI were enemies. And Drapso and Sumo, his father-in-law, were both in PKI. Mr. Mahisa himself, who was a Quran reciter, was in NU. In the past, NU and PKI were enemies.

Questioner: What was the PKI-NU hostility over, Grandpa?

Bati: I don't know, but this is the story. According to people, the PKI said, "What’s yours is mine". So, if you had a big rice field, the PKI would just work on it. Profit sharing, just like that.

Questioner: In Soro village, did the PKI ever work on the rice fields, Grandpa?

Bati: They did. On the west side of the water dam, Haj Tengah's rice field was cultivated by people from Mentaram hamlet, including Iwak. Well, there were 25 people who worked on Haj Tengah's rice field. They said they were sharing the profits.

Questioner: Did they plow the rice fields until the harvest, Grandpa?

Bati: Not until the harvest, because September 30, 1965 occurred. 

Questioner: Did you tell those who owned their rice fields, Grandpa?

Bati: No, I didn't. It was the norm that rich people who had large rice fields would be harassed by the PKI. How that happened, I really didn't understand.

Questioner: Did that include Bungkik's uncle?

Bati: Yes, Iwak, who was married in Pake hamlet, was arrested and killed in October 1965. Many people from Soro village participated in hoeing the rice fields.

Questioner: Did Iwak join the PKI? 

Bati: Yes, Iwak was a member of the PKI.

Questioner: What is BTI, Grandpa?

Bati: BTI is the Indonesian Peasant Front (Barisan Tani Indonesia), part of the PKI movement.

Questioner: What were the BTI’s activities in Soro, Grandpa?

Bati: I don't know their activities... Kabir was the leader of the PKI in Soro village. 

Questioner: Kabir was a man, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, a man. Kabir was arrested in Malang City. It was Kaimi and Baderi, NU members, who chased and arrested him. Kaimi was Kiyat's brother, from Kamis hamlet (Pace village). He was chased between the alleys in Malang City. Then he was caught alive ... (PKI members) had to be brought to the police station first before the killing. So, the police station called Soro. Then the police said that Soro village would get a "quota" of 4 or 5 people. So, approval came from the police station first. It was not that people were busy arresting (PKI/underbow members) and then killing them arbitrarily (by the community). So, potential victims were first sent to the police station, then the police station sent them back to the village. The police also escorted the delivery of victims. So, there were 5-6 police personnel in the car...

Questioner: Not soldiers, Grandpa?

Bati: No, it was the police. The police then commanded one ... two ... three ... They sounded the whistle ‘priiit’! Then we dared to act. If there was no command from the police, we did not dare act. So, we stayed obedient to the police... 

Questioner: Once the whistle was blown, what did you do?

Bati: Yes, then we cut the victim down. 

Questioner: Where was the location, Grandpa?

Bati: In the Soro village graveyard.

Questioner: Who did the killing, Grandpa?

Grandpa: The Anshor members ...

Questioner: You did not join Anshor yourself?

Bati: I was a member of Anshor, but I didn't want to participate in killing (PKI members) ... I really didn't want to ... The perpetrators of the murder, it turns out, are now also dead ... Kodin. Kodin was the executioner, the killer...

Questioner: Where did Kodin move to Grandpa?

Bati: Moved to the grave (laughs) hahaha…

Questioner: Before his death, I mean?

Bati: Moved to Gadi hamlet. We once invited Anom Suroto to a puppet show... Then there was Sokilin (lame) who was a jogoboyo (traditional village security guard) from Dawuh hamlet, he was also an executioner. But he's already dead.

Questioner: Grandpa, Sokilin still alive, isn't?

Bati: Where?

Questioner: In Ledokan ...

Bati: Well, no, he's dead... he did migrate to Sumatra with his wife, but then returned home. Sokilin came from Sepan hamlet, Gajo village. He married Mr. Kemis's daughter. Then he became a jogoboyo. 

Questioner: I heard that it was before the construction of the Repot River bridge (1987—IM) ...

Bati: I don't know. Even if it was there, it must have been very old... However, killing a fellow human being must bring retribution... the retribution can be at a different time, years later. There must be retribution.

Questioner: Are you a member of Anshor?

Bati: Yes, I am a member of Anshor...

Questioner: If you didn't participate in killing (the PKI members), was that a problem?

Bati: Yes, it's okay. I only took part in guarding. Mr. Bagong, Toro's father, came here. The big post was near here. Mr. Dula had the telephone. So, PNI and NU people were together when we were on guard duty after September 30th, 1965. 

Questioner: What were you guarding?

Bati: Only that if there was anything, there would be preparations. Simply put, if there was a PKI operation, we were already on guard. I only took part in guarding. I was on guard every night.

Questioner: Did you join the watch?

Bati: I joined the guard. But I was still young at that time. I was still a teenager, not yet a young adult. 

Questioner: Was Mr. Mahisa already a young adult?

Bati: Mr. Mahisa already had a family. He's an older man. I was still a teenager.

Questioner: As a member of Anshor, what was your task?

Bati: Just a young man, no duties.

Questioner: Were you given a uniform?

Bati: There were no uniforms either.

Questioner: Anshor is the NU youth organization. The PKI’s youth organization was Pemuda Rakyat. The PNI youth organization is Marhein. What about Masyumi?

Bati: Masyumi was very cruel. Masyumi was disbanded and then switched to the Muhammadiyah organization. Then the party joined the PPP.

Questioner: Grandpa Bati, at that time, did you vote for the party?

Bati: No, because I was still a teenager at that time. 

Questioner: Did you join Anshor before or after September 30th, 1965?

Bati: Before. The youth associations all used to go to Hansip. Before Hansip, it was called PKD (Pemuda Keamanan Desa; Village Security Youth).

Questioner: What were the duties of Hansip and Anshor, Mbah?

Bati: I was only a member of Anshor. 

Questioner: Was there a uniform, Grandpa?

Bati: There was no uniform.

Questioner: Where did you register to become an Anshor member, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, I was visited by the NU. Anyways, all youth NU members had to join Anshor.

Questioner: So you didn't go to the Anshor office, but Anshor came to your house.

Bati: Yes, that's right...

Questioner: Before the events of September 30th, 1965, how was the relationship between NU and PKI members in Soro village?

Bati: At that time there were many meetings. During the meetings, they would mock each other. But the most (cruel)... was Masyumi.

Questioner: What was Masyumi, Grandpa?

Bati: Masyumi was a party. They were all parties. In the past, the big parties were NU, PNI, PKI, Masyumi. Those four were the big parties at the time.


Questioner: Before the Gestok (September 30th, 1965) what was the subject of ridicule between NU and PKI at that time?

Bati: I don't know ... every activity was always mocked. Like when there were recitations. The aim was to attract members to their respective organizations so that they had many followers. To find friends in the organization. This side badmouthed that side. That side badmouthed this side.

Questioner: When you were in Anshor, did you ever come face to face with the PKI's Pemuda Rakyat (People's Youth)?

Bati: Never. When I was in Hansip, I still worked with them. Hansip had people from NU and Pemuda Rakyat. For example, say you are from Pemuda Rakyat, I am from Ansor. We worked together in Hansip. We got along well at that time.

Questioner: So, what was the problem that started the mockery between NU and PKI, Grandpa?

Bati: Well, in the days (before) the events of September 30th, 1965. Yes ... both were recruiting members from the community. So the PKI recruited members, NU also recruited members.

Questioner: Do you still remember what was used for the mockery between the PKI and NU, Mbah?

Bati: They mocked each other; I've forgotten. One demonizes the other; then the other demonizes the first again. And so on...

Questioner: Besides Mr. Mahisa, who was killed by pro-PKI soldiers, was there anyone else killed by the PKI, Grandpa?

Bati: There were none in Soro village.

Questioner: There were two types of soldiers at the time, those who were Cakrabirawa and those who were not. The soldiers that supported the PKI were called the (Cakra) Bhirawa army. Is that right, Grandpa?

Bati: Lari was Bhirawa. Lari from Nandes village was removed from the army. Lari was Bung Karno's bodyguard. But after Gestok was over, Lari was reappointed.

Questioner: Was that in the Army?

Bati: It should be the army ... like what happened to the PGRI teachers at that time ... Some teachers were dismissed because they were suspected to be involved in the PKI. Actually, they were not PKI members...

Questioner: But...?

Bati: But (their process) of becoming a teacher was facilitated by the PKI. Their names were registered with the PKI.

Questioner: Many in Soro, Grandpa?

Bati: There were many who were involved (in the PKI) like that. On the list they were counted as PKI, but were not actually members of the PKI. Mr. Arif was dismissed from teaching. But after the conflict was over, he was reappointed. But he didn't teach. He was at school, but not teaching in class. Lari, who was a soldier, later became an active soldier again in Malang.

Questioner: Who were given firearms, Grandpa?

Bati: I don't know. But Lari from Nandes was reappointed and received a pension. Near here, Mr. Banto from the military also received a pension. Mr. Banto was Mrs. Cumi's husband. His house was south of Grandpa Dullah’s. Then Siro, he's a veteran PKI figure. 

Questioner: Where was his house, Grandpa?

Bati: Siro was the father of a lawyer named- ... He's an old man. He was not allowed to teach in class. 

Questioner: Where did he teach?

Bati: Elementary school or SR (Sekolah Rakjat)

Questioner: Where was the school located, Grandpa?

Bati: It was at Mr. Tomu's house in Soro. Mugi's father. Now his house is near the church. I also went to school there. There was no school building then. The school was in people's houses.

Questioner: Were you also taught by Siro?

Bati: Yes, I was taught by Siro too. Then there was Mr. Boto. Mrs. Pisi, whose house is west of Gombler's, whose house has "ojo dupeh'' written on it. 

Questioner: Siro was in PKI, Grandpa. During the events of September 30th, 1965, did he get killed or not? 

Bati: He just disappeared. I don't know where he was hiding. Actually, he was also wanted, but people didn't know where he was.

Questioner: He was a leader (of the PKI), right Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, he was the leader. Siro participated in the Madiun incident (PKI).

Questioner: In 1948?

Bati: I don't know the year...

Questioner: It is said that Siro participated in the Madiun incident.

Bati: The leader in Madiun was Muso.

Questioner: Was he (Siro) an important person?

Bati: That's right.


Questioner: Grandpa, before the events of September 30th, 1965, how was the economic situation in Soro village?

Bati: Life was normal.

Questioner: Deprived, or normal, Grandpa?

Bati: My feeling at that time was that life was normal. 

Questioner: Did a lot of people join the PKI? What was the reason for that? Did they follow others, or what?

Bati: Maybe because the PKI was so clever, so ...? The PGRI association was heavily involved in the PKI.

Questioner: Were there many PKI members in Soro, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, there were many members.

Questioner: What was your experience as a youth?

Bati: There used to be a name for the Pemuda Rakyat from the PKI... NU youth were called Anshor...

Questioner: Grandpa, when you were guarding as part of Hansip, were you together with Anshor and the Pemuda Rakyat members? Before September 30th, 1965, did they get along well, Grandpa?

Bati: They got along well.

Questioner: After September 30th, 1965? 

Bati: Yes, they were first, they got along well. Hansip had PKI youth, NU youth, and PNI youth. The duty of guarding the city of Siwi was common to all three.

Questioner: Before the Gestok, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes

Questioner: How was the friendship like in daily life, with friends from different organizations?

Bati: The friendship was in the Hansip.

Questioner: What did friends from different organizations talk about?

Bati: Nothing. In Hansip, if you were told to guard, you guard. If you were told to line up, just line up. That's all.

Questioner: After the events of September 30th, 1965, were you still in the Hansip, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, then it disbanded after that.

Questioner: After Gestok, where did your fellow Hansip members from the Pemuda Rakyat go? Did they run away or stay in Soro?

Bati: Yes, they stayed in Soro. 

Questioner: Were they arrested or not?

Bati: They weren't arrested, they just stayed at home.

Questioner: Were they killed, Grandpa?

Bati: No, they weren't. They were safe.

Questioner: Are your friends from the Pemuda Rakyat in Hansip still alive Mbah?

Bati: I don't know, I'm not going anywhere because I'm old...

Questioner: They were not killed, Grandpa?

Bati: No.

Questioner: Who was killed, Grandpa, from the PKI?

Bati: Only the leaders of the PKI were killed. Only the leaders.


Questioner: Were people filled with fear after the events of September 30th, 1965? 

Bati: Yes, the people were very frightened. People were very afraid. Every village was in fear.

Questioner: What was the cause of that fear, Grandpa?

Bati: The fear was that they too would be killed. Everyone was filled with fear.

Questioner: At that time, did you live in this house?

Bati: Yes, I've been here since I was a child.

Questioner: Were you born in this house?

Bati: Yes, I was born and raised here. My house at that time was very small. The walls were made of woven bamboo, with many holes. Big enough for a dog to enter.

Questioner: Did you use to work as a farmer?

Bati: My childhood experience was not in farming, but as a trader, an umbrella maker. 

Questioner: What did you do, Grandpa?

Bati: So, I was making umbrellas and selling them.

Questioner: What kind of umbrella, Mbah?

Bati: Umbrellas made of paper, then the glue was made from little cape fruits. Then there were many cloth umbrellas, so paper umbrellas didn't sell well. I then stopped trading. Then I became a farm laborer. Yes, I was poor.


Questioner: So, after the Gestok incident, people were scared, right?

Bati: Everyone was scared. It was an era of turmoil.

Questioner: What were the conditions in your village like at nighttime?

Bati: Every night we gathered, young and old, to keep watch. In case anything happens...

Questioner: Where did you keep watch first?

Bati: Here at Mr. Dulla’s post. There were also people from Gadi hamlet who guarded here. 

Questioner: Where was Mr. Dulla?

Bati: In front of the entrance road. This was Mr. Soheh’s, who owns the small mosque. 

Questioner: He used to be the headman, Grandpa...

Bati: Yes, the headman. Mr. Dulla had a telephone. So, with his phone he could communicate with the police station in Siwi.

Questioner: What did you encounter during the night watches at the time, Grandpa?

Bati: Anyway, the gathering was like that...

Questioner: Was there ever a riot at that time?

Bati: No, usually there were none. But if there was a “shipment” from the north (Siwi police station) ... yes.

Questioner: A shipment of people (PKI) ...

Bati: Yes, so if there was a shipment from the police station, there would be a phone call from the Siwi police station to Mr. Dula's house. How many people would be sent, etc.

Questioner: And you fill the quota at the graves, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, that's right...

Questioner: Were they brought from the police station by truck or pick-up vehicle, Grandpa?

Bati: They were brought from the north by truck, then dropped off in front of the late Mrs. Somah’s house. Then brought to the grave walking, escorted...

Questioner: Were the people brought all men, or were there women, Grandpa?

Bati: There was a woman. She was Kabir's wife... The rest, all men.

Questioner: Did those (PKI members) who were taken cry, or remain silent, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, they were silent. They were frightened.

Questioner: So they just obeyed and complied, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, they just obeyed... They were handcuffed. They all obeyed. Even though the handcuffs were made of thread, they were tied around the thumbs of the PKI members.

Questioner: Oh, thread...

Bati: The way we tied it, the backs of both hands were attached, and the hands were placed in front of the abdomen. That's it. It's surprising that just tying only the thumbs (made PKI members) helpless.

Questioner: Did Kabir's wife cry, Grandpa?

Bati: She didn’t ...

Questioner: The story was that Kabir's wife was very beautiful, Grandpa?

Bati: Very beautiful and also very rich. When she was taken to the graveyard that night, she wore a gold necklace, and a circular bracelet. Then she brought a lot of money in a bag when she was taken to the graveyard that night. They’re bangkelan.

Questioner: What was bangkelan, Grandpa?

Bati: Bangkelan means clothing merchant.

Questioner: So, Mrs. Kabir brought a lot of money to the grave?

Bati: Yes, she brought a lot of money

Questioner: Did you see that yourself?

Bati: Yes, I saw it myself. I was also escorting her.

Questioner: Up to the grave?

Bati: Yes, to the grave.

Questioner: Who killed them (the PKI leaders)?

Bati: It was those night.

Questioner: What time was it?

Bati: It must have been after the Isha prayer time ... around 20:00 or 21:00 at night. So, I don't know who killed those (PKI members). Anyways, (I) just followed ...

Questioner: Did you have your own assignment?

Bati: Yes.

Questioner: Did the police come to the grave, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, the police gave the orders.

Questioner: The police blew the whistle, signaling the time to kill?

Bati: Yes. So, if the police had not given the order, no one would have acted.

Questioner: Did you bring a lamp when you walked to the grave?

Bati: There was no oncor (oil lamp). There was only a flashlight.

Questioner: Not oncor, Granpda?

Bati: There was no oncor. There was only a flashlight. So, the action depends on the police’s command.

Questioner: Were they killed by beating or slaughtered with a sword, Grandpa?

Bati: Sword. So, when the PKI person was walking, he would be slashed from behind, right at the back of the neck. So, "cok" then "bleg", "cog" then "bleg"... the corpses were scattered ...

Questioner: For those who walked behind them, did you know that someone was aiming at the necks of PKI members, Mbah?

Bati: Yes, I knew. That's why I wasn't at the back, but at the front, so I didn't see it.

Questioner: How many people were in the graveyard, Grandpa?

Bati: I was just following along. Just following along. I have never (slaughtered). I didn't want to. It was just a way for me to get along with my friends. It's like that. Friends go north, I go north. Friends go south, I go south. That's how it was. So, (if) I'm told to do something weird, (I) didn't want to. 

Questioner: Usually, were many people (from PKI) taken to the grave, Grandpa?

Bati: Not necessarily. Sometimes it was four, sometimes it was more. When I took them to Mr. Kabir's grave, there were eight people (PKI victims).

Questioner: Mrs. Kabir, Grandpa?

Bati: Mr. Kabir and Mrs. Kabir.

Questioner: So, the Kabirs were taken to the grave together, Grandpa?

Answer: That's right. At that time, their bodies were put into one hole. There was the body of Kabir and his wife, then there seemed to be Iwak...

Questioner: All of them came from Soro village, Grandpa?

Bati: No, some came from other villages. But I didn't know who they were...

Questioner: Grandpa, was the hole dug that very night, or the day before?

Bati: Well, I really don't remember when it was dug...

Questioner: During the guarding, how many PKI people were killed in the Soro village graveyard, Grandpa?

Bati: Wow, there were many.

Questioner: Around 50 people, Grandpa?

Bati: No, but there were many at that time ... About once every three days we got a delivery from Siwi. Sometimes five people, sometimes four. Then in a week or so, another shipment would come.

Questioner: What was the name of the one who killed people in the Soro village graveyard, Grandpa? Who was famous, Grandpa?

Bati: The one who slaughtered? Sokilin, then Bamjur from Bonsa hamlet. Both of them have passed away.

Questioner: What about Mr. Kaimi, Grandpa?

Bati: He did not participate in the slaughtering.

Questioner: You told me that Mr. Kaimi caught Kabir ...

Bati: Yes, after Kabir was captured, he was handed over to the police. The police took care of the victims. Mr. Kaimi did not interfere anymore... 

Questioner: When they were slaughtered, did anyone shout or just keep quiet, Grandpa?

Bati: Nothing as far as I remember. Most of them shouted 'Ouch!' then 'bleg' fell into the hole in the ground...

Questioner: During the slaughter, did anyone say 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Great), Grandpa?

Bati: There was, namely the one who slaughtered, the one who cut them down.

Questioner: The slaughterer said ‘Allah Akbar’, Mbah?

Bati: Yes, as soon as there was a command from the police in the form of a whistle blow, then the slaughterer sent his sword into the back of the PKI member’s neck while shouting 'Allahu Akbar' ... "crog”

Questioner: Was anyone immune to their weapons, Mbah?

Bati: No. In Pace village there was one who was immune to weapons, his name was Sabit. He was chased up a coconut tree, then the coconut tree was cut down. When the tree collapsed, Sabit was hit by the trunk, but he was still able to escape. Sabit was a magic man. Naturally, if a person is hit by a coconut tree, his bones will be broken. Sabit's body remained intact. But I didn't see it myself at the time. I was at home. I didn't pay attention to events like this. 

Questioner: Were you in Soro at that time?

Bati: Yes, there were people milling around in the afternoon at that time, but I stayed at home. 

Questioner: When there was a slaughter of PKI members in the graveyard at night, did the atmosphere in the community remain normal the next day, Grandpa? Did people go to the fields or not, and did the market stay open or not?

Bati: Yes, things would continue as usual. People still went to the fields; people still went to the market. It's only at night that there were guards.

Questioner: The story goes that someone was killed on the east side of Mr. Sirka's house. Who was it?

Bati: Was there any?

Questioner: He said someone was put into the well...

Bati: That was Rugi, his name. His house was located on the east side of Sirka's house, which is now occupied by Sembo. His name was Rugi.

Questioner: Why Grandpa?

Bati: The reason, it's more because of personal issues...

Questioner: Personal grudge...

Bati: Yes, there was a personal grudge. Probably with Sodi from Gadi hamlet. At that time there was also a man named Dimsali from Kediri. He was a rajah (mantra wrote on paper) maker. He was a bit naughty...

Questioner: What are the benefits of rajah, Grandpa?

Bati: To obtain salvation...

Questioner: The one who made it came from NU, Grandpa?

Bati: Dimsali was from Kediri. He liked to come here (Soro). But the people were looking for money. The making of rajah always costs money. Whether it works or not, I don't know. In fact, there were many people here (in Soro) who ordered the rajah ... Dimsali has passed away now. 

Questioner: Grandpa, when you took the PKI members to the grave, why didn't the police slaughter them?

Bati: I didn't know why the killings were entrusted to the villagers ...During the Adang era (Trisula Operation, South Blitar 1968), many NU people from here went there. There was Sambur, Kodi, Sedor, Bukin (whose house was near, east of here). But Sedor was not a brave person, he was actually a coward. Bukin was only used as a shield. 

Questioner: Did you go to Adang (subdistrict)?

Bati: No, I didn't. Most of the people from east of here went there. Those who went to Adang were young people from many areas ... Even from Anshor, those who came were the members that just joined (the organization) ...


Questioner: Grandpa, did Mr. Kabir have children?

Bati: No, he didn't. He had an adopted child.

Questioner: Are any of his adopted children around now, Grandpa?

Bati: I don't know where they are now.

Questioner: Suah was it, Mbah?

Bati: Suah was an adopted daughter too. There was Suah, then Samik. I don't know where they are now.

Questioner: They say Suah married Barsi from Gadi hamlet, who is now a carik (village secretary) in Titeng village...

Bati: Yes, in Titeng village...

Questioner: Didn't she participate, Grandpa?

Bati: No, she didn't.  I don't know where Samik is now.

Questioner: How long did you stay on night guard operations (1965)?

Bati: I don't know how long. Obviously until it was safe. I was there when Trisula Operation (South Blitar) took place.

Questioner: Where were you deployed?

Bati: I was assigned to Pake hamlet, near here.

Questioner: At that time, was Soro already safe, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes. As I recall, the Trisula Operation lasted three months. My job was to check the paperwork...

Questioner: Where were you?

Bati: At the boat crossing on the Santu River...

Questioner: Where was the letter from, Grandpa?

Bati: I didn't know, the letter must have come from the village. Maybe it was a travel permit.

Questioner: Oh, a road letter, Grandpa...

Bati: For example, if a resident from the south of the river wants to cross to the village north of the river, then a travel permit was needed.

Questioner: If you didn't bring a permit, what did you do?

Bati: You had to go back home.

Questioner: Have you met people who didn't bring a letter?

Bati: No.

Questioner: Did you always carry a letter with you?

Bati: Yes

Questioner: It's like an identity card...

Bati: Yes, it's like an ID card nowadays. There was no ID card back then.

Questioner: At that time, did you wear the Ansor uniform?

Bati: We wore the Hansip uniform.

Questioner: At that time, the Pemuda Rakyat no longer existed, Grandpa?

Bati: No.

Questioner: Had it disbanded, Grandpa?

Bati: It already dissolved. There was PNI ... I guarded it for a day and a night ...

Questioner: In Pake?

Bati: Yes.

Questioner: Were you paid during your guard stint or not, Grandpa?

Bati: None. Who wants to pay us? No one.

Questioner: What is Hansip usually given...?

Bati: What?... I never got paid for being in Hansip ... So, the people guarding the riverbank guarded with members of the Koramil and veterans. There were two veterans in one post.

Questioner: If you didn't get paid, how did you eat?

Bati: I got my food from the village.

Questioner: It was rationed, right, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, it's rationed from the village. Only rice packets. So, you get 2 packs a day, in the afternoon and evening. Alas I didn't get a ration in the morning. So, it's only in the midday and in the evening.

Questioner: After the Trisula Operation, did you get paid?

Bati: No!


Questioner: Mbah, I heard that at that time the PKI people mocked the NU people? Demonizing religion (Islam)?

Bati: No. 

Questioner: No, Grandpa?

Bati: No. That era was not about mocking religion. 

Questioner: Not about religion, Grandpa?

Bati: No.

Questioner: Why did the hated arise (between NU and PKI), Grandpa? Such that your relationship with the Pemuda Rakyat became weak, even though the relationship was strong before? Why was that grandpa?

Bati: Because ... (we) became aware of the outbreak of the events in Jakarta (G September 30th, 1965). 

Questioner: Was that the reason, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, it wasn't like that before (hating each other). It was a normal relationship. During the day we had a normal relationship (with the Pemuda Rakyat) ...

Questioner: You told me about profit sharing. Did that make you angry?

Bati: It did make us angry. Because NU people witnessed the act of profit sharing...

Questioner: How did they (NU) do that, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, by approaching and counting how many people (from the PKI) were doing profit-sharing in the rice fields ... The NU people approached. They kept a distance, for example, NU people stood at about the distance from the front road to my house (100 meters). That is, watching... 

Questioner: So what did the PKI Members do, Mbah?

Bati: Hoeing...

Questioner: What was the crop?

Bati: Rice.

Questioner: Where were the fields, Grandpa?

Bati: It was in the rice fields of Soro village. Near the water dam. The people who owned the rice fields were from Nandes village. It was located near Mr. Dinoyo’s rice field.

Questioner: After they watched, what happened next, Grandpa?

Bati: There was nothing left. 

Questioner: Did the PKI people have time to cultivate, Grandpa?

Bati: It didn't happen. Before they had time to plant rice, there was a commotion (the outbreak of September 30th, 1965). They had failed.


Questioner: Who was Drapso, actually?

Bati: Drapso was a soldier from Sopo village. He also was Sumo's son-in-law.

Questioner: Was he related to the murder of Mr. Mahisa, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes. Sumo had a son-in-law, Drapso and a biological son also named Drapso. This son-in-law was a soldier from Sopo village. But actually, this (son-in-law) Drapso was caught, then brought to Blitar (district town). But when he got there, he was released again. We don't know whether he escaped on his own or was released by someone. He was already taken to Blitar. Taken to prison. But there he was released, whether he escaped or was deliberately released. It was not clear.

Questioner: After (Drapso) was released, how did it continue Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, the case was over.

Questioner: You don't know, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, we didn't know where he ran... Whether this release was facilitated by the officials, we also didn't know...

Questioner: They said that the residents of Ledok area, then Mentaram hamlet to the north (who supported PKI) will be finished off (meaning Mahisa), Grandpa?

Bati: What was that? There was no such thing. I didn't hear that news.

Questioner: Rumor, Grandpa …

Bati: Yes, that rumor... Mahisa himself came from Adem. Then married Mrs. Ropi. Built a house in Soro. So, yes, he lived in Soro for a long time.

Questioner: Grandpa, how come no one chased and ganged up on Drapso during the murder?

Bati: Yes... Drapso was finally arrested a few days later. He was searched for, arrested, then taken to the east side of Blitar town square (prison). But then Drapso was released, I don't know if he escaped or was deliberately released...

Questioner: Was the incident (the shooting of Mr. Mahisa) in Gadi hamlet at night or during the day, Grandpa?

Bati: Night.

Questioner: What time, Mbah?

Bati: 11 o'clock at night. It was late at night by then.

Questioner: So, the night you were told to buy cigarettes by Mr. Mahisa?

Bati: Yes, then I went home...

Questioner: Then you became a witness...

Bati: Yes, so the incident happened after the recitation. In the afternoon I was told by Mr. Mahisa to buy cigarettes. In the evening, Mr. Mahisa died in his own house, because he was killed by soldiers. I was already at home by that time.

Questioner: Was Mr. Mahisa shot to death or what, Grandpa?

Bati: Shot

Questioner: In his house?

Bati: Yes

Questioner: So, Mr. Mahisa's body was found at his house?

Bati: Yes, then it was brought north (to Siwi) ...

Questioner: To the police station, Grandpa?

Bati: To the hospital...

Questioner: Oh ... for post-mortem, Grandpa?

Bati: Mr. Mahisa's body was then taken to the hospital by an army truck...

Questioner: But, which faction, Grandpa? 

Bati: The soldiers (who killed Mahisa, a NU leader in Soro) was not just one, there were about 5-6 soldiers... but this was approximately...

Questioner: So, the soldiers brought a truck, Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, they brought a truck.

Questioner: If they brought a truck, it means that there were many people guarding it, right Grandpa?

Bati: Yes, but I didn't know, they (the soldiers) had run away ... no one knows. Next thing we knew, the incident just happened ...

Questioner: Was that the NU supporters running amok, Grandpa?

Bati: No. It was just the normal situation of the people at that time.

Questioner: Was it normal?

Bati: (Normal) as usual ... but yes, the community became more vigilant and prepared. In fact, after that there was nothing. Only then did the guarding became tighter.   

Interviewer: Imam Muhtarom

Interviewee: Bati

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Transcript Notes


  1.  How does Bati’s testimony illustrate his agency in navigating the Cold War in Indonesia amidst the massacres in the 1960s?

  2. To what extent did political ideology drive the actions of youth like Sarjoti during the Cold War in Indonesia?

  3.  What was the role/function of traditional values and culture in Indonesia’s Cold War conflict?

  4. Did Indonesia truly experience a Cold War, given Sarjoti’s testimony? Would it be more accurate to characterize it as a local conflict? Why or why not?