Glimpses of Indonesia’s 1965 Massacre through the Lens of the Census: Migration and Refuge in East Java
The anti-Communist violence that followed the kidnapping and assassination of senior Indonesian generals on the morning of October 1, 1965, marked the beginning of the most traumatic period in modern Indonesian history. Prior work on this subject focuses almost exclusively on the killings themselves rather than on any movements of population that may have occurred as the violence unfolded. This paper presents evidence of widespread migration associated with the violence using estimates of one-time changes in population based on data from three Indonesian censuses that were taken shortly before or after the killings. Specifically, this paper demonstrates that information about locations in which cadres of the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI) were regrouping in the wake of the killings, as identified by the intelligence apparatus of the Indonesian military, coincide with locations for which there is substantiation, based on census data, of a large, one-time in-migration during 1965–66. These destinations tended to be located in established PKI strongholds, which the army was unable to effectively penetrate, and where refugees could expect to find shelter among like-minded people. The findings of this paper also provide clues about district-level locations in East Java in which researchers may find additional information about such movements of people and about the 1965–66 killings more generally from survivors and witnesses.
Volume & Issue:
Page range: 27–39
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program