‘Those Murderous Dayaks’
Local Politics, National Policy, Ethnicity and Religious Difference in Southern Kalimantan, Indonesia
In March of 2001, in central Kalimantan, a group of Dayaks, the indigenous peoples of Borneo, attacked and killed a number of Madurese farmers. These farmers had been settled in the area for some years, under the sponsorship of an Indonesian Government transmigration programme which, since 1953, has been responsible for the relocation in Kalimantan of literally tens of thousands of families from Java, Madura, and Bali. While ethnic difference has frequently been cited, both locally and nationally, as the cause of violence between, for example, Dayaks and Madurese, the constitution of Kalimantan’s ethnic groups, the historical, social and economic conditions under which they emerge, and the link between such ethnic groupings and inter-ethnic violence, has rarely been examined. This paper explores the relationship between national policies of resettlement and resource management and the emergence of a sometimes bloody politics of ethnicity in Kalimantan. It argues that while religious difference is frequently cited as in some way causing conflict, competition between locals, migrant groups, and the State over control of resources is a more crucial factor.
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