Anti-mining activist, Salim Kancil, was murdered on the 26 September, 2015. Hands tied, he was dragged 2km from his home in Lumajang, East Java. He was beaten, tortured with electric shots, and his throat slit with a saw. His body was then dumped at the entrance to a cemetery.
Before murdering Salim, the thugs had attacked another local activist, Tosan. However, Tosan was saved by a friend and taken to hospital. Environmental group, WALHI, is now collecting donations to cover the cost of his medical bills.
The two locals had been active in a group protesting sand mining. The mining had initially been proposed as part of a plan to develop tourism in the area. The tourism had never been realised, leaving only the mining. In September activists had organised a protest highlighting the environmental impact. They had received threats in the weeks leading up to it, but police failed to respond in time. Three days following the protest Salim was murdered.
In an example of peasant – worker solidarity, workers in urban areas quickly took up the case of Salim’s murder. Facebook display photos were changed en masse to a picture of Salim’s murdered body and the words ‘Life not as expensive as mining. Salim Kancil murdered’ (see image above). Several unions came together to hold solidarity actions, as did students.
The timing of the killing was the subject of some discussion. The murder of Salim occurred only days before the 50th anniversary of the 1965-1966 anti-communist mass killings in which over 500,000, if not over one million, Indonesians were killed as part of a communist purge that brought dictator, Suharto, to power. Several commentators likened the sadistic killing of Salim to the style of the 1965 murders. Current president, Jokowi, used the anniversary of the mass killings to reiterate that there would be no apology for the victims of ‘65 or their families.
Salim’s murder also occurred only two days after Indonesian National Peasant Day. This day is used by activists in Indonesia to highlight the ongoing dispossession, criminalisation and violence towards peasants. Salim’s case sadly demonstrated their point.
Agrarian conflict has flared up in several parts of Indonesia recently. Land grabs, illegal mining and related environmental problems are far from rare occurrences as the government implements plans to increase industrialisation in Indonesia. The government’s eagerness to attract and retain investment has come at a high cost for peasants and workers, as the case of Salim illustrates.