Were the 1965 murders committed by the state against its people, or by religious groups within society against communist groups? According to Robert Cribb, that remains the central unsolved riddle in studies of the catastrophe. This presentation attempts to solve that question by adopting an approach not often taken before. Most accounts start on 1 October 1965.
But that is like opening a novel at the back to find out what happens. To understand who the collective actors were that opposed each other in October 1965, and why they were so polarised, we need to go back in time. The key turning point was September 1963. Before that, President Sukarno would not permit open confrontation between Indonesians and Indonesians at the centre of national politics. In that month something happened to create a new dynamic of contention. As it developed, friends became enemies, and started openly calling each other names. Discovering what that ‘something’ was is the quest today.
Gerry van Klinken is senior researcher at the KITLV, and professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Amsterdam.