Bonek against gang violence

Yamadipati Seno, 6th February 2020. First published on Mojok.

All of us already know that it is useless to rely on the police to solve the problem of klitih (roughly translatable as ‘gang violence’) in Jogja. The police take so long to act: perhaps because it is owing to bureaucracy or some other reason. Almost every night, someone on social media uploads some coverage of klitih, or at least some other kind of similar, suspicious behaviour. 

Perhaps the number of police in Jogja is too small. And that all of them are responding to incidents and calls, or are at the police station. We shouldn’t rush to prejudgements. They work long hours. And, at night, they need to rest to regain their stamina. So that the following day they are ready to serve, protect and take care of society. During the day. Only. 

As such, it is useful that communities organise themselves independently of the police. The easiest thing to do is to reactivate the night watch. Or, the karang taruna youth groups could be strengthened so that the youth have a means to channel their energy.

But just remember: don’t take the law into your own hands? It is indeed quite normal to want to do a bit of ‘sport’ once having caught a person who is involved in klitih. Who wouldn’t feel like giving it to someone who has hurt a lot of innocent people? Imagine how it would feel, minding one’s own business, and then suddenly being stabbed in the back. One’s friends, let alone one’s family, would be furious. 

One community that is committed to tackle the klitih in Jogja, is a community of football supporters. Those of us who in Jogja, can learn from the Bonek, who worked with the police to take on the various youth groups who were known for their violent actions. They were often referred to as ‘gangsters’. 

But, this term ‘gangster’ is used in a specific way in this context. Don’t think of these Surabayan gangsters to be similar to criminal organisations managing their criminal underworld from behind the scenes. They are, like those who are involved in klitih in Jogja, are gangs of youths whose energies aren’t being channelled in the right manner. They gather in a particular location and then attack other gangs which are also making communities uneasy. 

The Bonek, whose members share a deep solidarity, understand that they have a great resource with which they can contribute to policing. They consolidate their actions through social media and share news with each other. They give each other information about which areas need to be managed through night watch. The Bonek also counter the gangsters through their social media accounts. Yep, even they have accounts on IG and Facebook. 

aiding the police

After scrolling through social media and also offline, the Bonek have identified gangs such as BRJS (Barisan Remaja Jiwa Santui), GWE (Golongan Wani Edan), SSC (Sindicate Stan Coming), BRT (Barisan Remaja Tanfans), BRB (Barisan Remaja Buntu), PPY (Pasukan Yak-Yakan), BRLM (Barisan Remaa Morat- Maret), PRM (Pasukan Ra Miker) and various others.  

These gangs are just like klitih. Every gang has dozens or hundreds of members. They start off their activities with drinking sessions in front of schools, and then roam the streets looking for trouble: challenging anyone who looks at them in the wrong way. 

Apart from helping with collecting information, the Bonek also do social media campaigns. They make various info-graphics to remind people that the role of supporters is to support their club. The Bonek aren’t associated with gangsters and cause no harm to their communities. They initiated a campaign: Jogo Suroboyo (Protect Surabaya). 

For me, this is a very interesting name. In this context, ‘Suroboyo’ means all places. It doesn’t mean acting alone; not acting in one group’s name; or, doing certain things to make one’s own group famous. Everyone is to be united and to share the same goals of protecting Surabaya. Safeguarding one’s identity and one’s city together. 

Are football supporters in DIY (Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, the Special Province of Yogyakarta) willing to unite and Protect DIY, in the manner of the Bonek? Let’s remember that klitih (gang violence) doesn’t just happe in Sleman or Bantul. The klitih happens all over the place. It’s evenly distributed. It makes everyone anxious and uneasy. The same kind of nervousness is pervasive throughout the city. Whether one is in the north or south; east or west. 

Indeed, uniting all of the different factions of football supporters in DIY is not something easy. There are many gaping differences. If football is not able to unite the supports in DIY, is it possible that klitih can? Isn’t it possible to unite for the Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta? Can’t we do that? 

Let’s learn from the Bonek. Maintaining security can’t be entirely left to the police. What is started by the community, must also be finished by the community. 

source: Kompas

Translated by Andy Fuller, July 2022

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