Some weeks ago, we reported that the Indonesian government, represented by the State Owned Enterprise PT. Angkasa Pura I agreed, in cooperation with investors, for the construction of an international airport megaproject in the coastal region of Kulon Progo. The project, known as NYIA (New Yogyakarta International Airport), met with a significant resistance from the local residents. No wonder: the proposed development site home to about 11,501 people, or 2,875 households. Most were small farmers who depend on their land for their livelihoods. Most left in April this year, after AP I cut off the electricity supply and damaged their farmland and crops. However, 86 families refused to sell their land to the developer and carried on fighting.
In recent days, this struggle entered something which looks like its final stage. The families who still manage to hold on to their homes and land are being subjected to a brutal evictions inflicted on them by both the police and Indonesian military. People are being violently dragged from their homes and the buildings are demolished.
One of the people who suffered eviction from her home is Wagirah, a 40 years old woman who last week Thursday watched the state forces breaking her door before she was dragged away together with her son. “I don’t want you to demolish my house. You are an oppressor of small people,” she screamed repeatedly. Another woman, Ika Rochyanti, said she was punched in the nose by a policewoman while she was trying to defend her house.
Before Saturday last week, AP I officials and 700 joint personnel violently evicted the families and demolished the rest of houses. Many people were injured, and their belongings taken away.
Wagirah and her neighbors, all of them women, continued to defy the personnel. They threw dust and challenged the officers to a one-on-one fight.
Their fight to defend the land that was not just their home but also a source of income from agriculture had continued for since 2012. The fight escalated last year when the airport developer completed the legal process to buy the land. Some residents accepted the purchase, while others, like Wagirah, refused and claimed the legal process validating the land purchase did not have their consent as land owners.
The 86 families were united under the Association of Residents Rejecting Kulon Progo Forced Eviction. In 2012, there were thousands of members defying the acquisition, but most of them left since.
The residents have taken several legal avenues to refuse the land acquisition. They tried to find help from the Indonesian Ombudsman, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan). They also got a lawyer, who says that the land acquisitions are illegal: a claim challenged by the AP I.
Losing their houses fields did not stop the farmers from fighting. They still remain in their now demolished village and refuse relocation.
“We’re going to stay here and help each other,” one local said, “Our house and land are not for sale.”