After my previous blog post titled "Abduction Series and Prabowo's Involvement", I wanted to meet and chat with the family of the abduction victims who haven't returned. One of the family I planned to meet is the family of Petrus Bimo Anugrah in Malang.
Last Thursday, June 26th, 2014, I unexpectedly met Bimo's father, Utomo Rahardjo in Jakarta. He went to Jakarta to attend The 357th Kamisan Action. Kamisan is a peaceful and silent movement by the human rights violation victims, families, and activists asking for justice. It has been held every Thursday in front of the presidential palace. In the 357th Kamisan, Pak Tomo gave a speech in front of other victims, families, activists, policemen, and media. Pointing to the president's palace, Pak Tomo shouted,
"If he [the president] doesn't care and doesn't have the guts to do it, let's leave him. Let him be 'til the time comes..."
Later that night, at an event, I took the opportunity to approach Pak Tomo and I asked if he was willing to meet for an interview about Bimo. We met the next day at Wisma KontraS. Kontras (The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence) provided a guest house for the victims and the familes who need to stay in Jakarta.
It was a sunny day. Pak Tomo was sitting on the floor while watching Metro TV news. I was glad to see him healthy. Then I joined and sat next to him. He shook my hand and asked my name, he said, "Thank you Dian, for your concern and your willingness to speak up. Without you, I can not possibly share my stories, my feelings. You can use any media, so that more people know about my son."
Pak Tomo repeatedly said he does not expect people to be concerned about his son or his story. For him, his story just needs to be shared with other people. Then it's up to them how will they respond it. He said it is their right. He does not worry if people ignore or bully him. He is grateful that people cared and are concerned about his son.
Petrus Bimo Anugrah
Bimo was from Malang (near Surabaya). He was a student of Airlangga University. Later he opted out from Airlangga University, moved to the STF Driyakara Jakarta, and became an activist. He become a member of the Indonesian Students Solidarity for Democracy (SMID) and the People's Democratic Party (PRD).
Bimo was missing on March 13th 1998 after attending a meeting against Soeharto regime in Pasar Baru, Jakarta. Unlike his roomates, Bimo did not return home after the meeting. His room mates who were also activists returned home to Klender Flat, and was arrested. On the same night, Bimo was missing. No one knows where BImo was abducted and how it happened.
When his friends realized Bimo was missing, they told Bimo's parents. Bimo's family immediately made a missing person report. They asked for help from the government and the police. But there has been no significant change. Bimo is still missing. From all institutions in Indonesia, only KontraS and IKOHI (Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared) gave them support. The government never helped anything.
The Day Bimo Said Goodbye
"If that is your choice, if you think it is right, do it. If you are faithful, no matter how small you are, Jesus will always save you,"
said Pak Tomo to Bimo when Bimo asked his permission to go to Jakarta and leave his college in Surabaya. Pak Tomo gave support to Bimo, while his wife didn't agree to Bimo's leaving.
After Bimo went missing, Pak Tomo said his wife complained to him why he had let Bimo leave in the first place. But Pak Tomo felt he wasn't letting Bimo to leave. He just wanted to give a support and pray for Bimo's passion. Which was changing his country for the better.
Pak Tomo said there is reason to regret for what happened. Pak Tomo said, there is no reason to regret what happened. He believes that there has been a positive outcome. "Indeed, I am proud to have a son like Bimo. He was ready to give him what he had for others," said Pak Tomo with a little sob but still trying to be strong.
Bimo's Dream and Struggle
Pak Tomo knew that his son was engaged in an underground political group. Bimo started to care about politics and social issues since his first semester in college in Surabaya. Bimo began to follow his friends who were in labor protests, accompany the farmers who were being evicted from their land. "That is Bimo's passion. He cares for those who are weak," said Pak Tomo.
Pak Tomo once asked Bimo, how many friends he had in his activist group. It turned out just as many as 30-50 friends. Pak Tomo continued asking Bimo, "will you be able to defeat the Soeharto regime along with the strength of the armed forces? If Soeharto and the armed forces are as thick as steel wall, will Bimo be able to break down that wall? Pak Tomo said, he remember Bimo answered his question with a smile,
"At least I will try to break the steel wall."
However, Bimo didn't tell Pak Tomo much regarding his activities or his actions in dealing with the police officers. Pak Tomo only knows that Bimo was upset with the regime and its human rights violations. Pak Tomo also heard Bimo was arrested by 60 days at the Polda Metro (Jakarta Police). Bimo's friend gave the news to Bimo's family and gave them a photograph of Bimo behind bars. Pak Tomo still keep that photo.
Bimo was arrested and detained for three charges. He was charged not for the possession of armed weapon, but for the possession of Mega-Bintang flyer, for his membership with the PRD, and for his demand for PRD Manifesto. "Bimo did not have a gun. His weapon was his thoughts, his critical view of the government. I remember that he demanded the PRD Manifesto. The Manifesto of the PRD included, among others; remove the dual function of the Armed Forces; revocation 5 political laws; East Timor referendum; and true open democracy. Their demands, I remember, was an attack to the government. The ideas could topple the regime. But now, after 16 years, their demands have been realized, " said Pak Tomo.
Bimo's big dream for this country has been accomplished. The PRD Manifesto has been accomplished and Bimo has managed to pave the way for the nation's democracy. However, he perished when he broke that steel wall.
Bimo did not always tell his father about his activism. However, there was one time Bimo needed his father's help. In 1996, when Bimo was on a hunger strike in Grahadi Parliament Surabaya, he was dispersed by a group of unknown people. He was hit on his head and was taken to the hospital. Bimo couldn't afford the hospital bill, so he asked his friend to see Pak Tomo in Malang. After receiving the news, Pak Tomo gave Bimo's friend the money to cover the hospital cost and the gas. He was also spontaneously gave Bimo's friend a piece of brown paper from the food paper bag. On that piece of paper, Pak Tomo wrote,
"Good luck. Don't give up. Keep fighting."
Accompanied by Bimo's younger brother, Bimo's friend went back again to Surabaya to give the money and the letter. According to Bimo's younger brother, when Bimo read the letter, he smiled.
"At least he got support from me, his father," said Pak Tomo after telling the story to me. Pak Tomo sighed and smiled remembering that story. "Bimo must be really happy to get the support from his father," I said to Pak Tomo. He was silent for a moment and then sighed again, "I think so ... I am proud of him. People still care about him. People are still fighting for him. Including you Dian, thank you ..."
"Bimo was funny. He likes to wear an ugly waist bag. I used to mock him. But Bimo just smiled. He does not want to look cool like other boy his age. Although he could, "said Pak Tomo.
"Where does his great soul came from?" I asked Pak Tomo
"It is naturally just Bimo," he replied. Pak Tomo told me that he raised his children in a humorous and democratic family. So Bimo grew up to be what he understood.
Then Pak Tomo started remembering how funny Bimo while he was still in elementary school. Although his school teacher was his own aunt who lived in the same house with him, every morning Bimo was always in a hurry to go to school. His mother wondered why he had to rush to school as early as possible if his teacher was still at home. Bimo claimed he just did not want to be late. Pak Tomo was laughing when he told me the story and he said, "That is how unique he was. That's how disciplined he was."
When Bimo was in kindergarten, he was being bullied by a classmate. He often complained to his father until Pak Tomo encourage him,
"Fight back. Men must be brave. Fight back until he loses."
One day while Bimo was playing with sands, his classmate bullied him again. Then Bimo put a plastic bucket on the bullies head and started punching the bucket. The boy cried and ran home. Since then he had never bullied Bimo again.
Pak Tomo said he had the same experience when he was still young. Pak Tomo also beat his classmate who bullied him. From that experience, Pak Tomo taught his children don't ever lose against the bad guys. "If we always want to be defeated, we will always lose. Do not ever want to lose. Fight back," was his advice.
"Half of my life to raise my son. Now half of my soul waits in silence for him to come back..."
Misiati Oetomo, Bimo Petrus' mother.
After raising, supporting, and praying for his 24-year-old son, Pak Tomo lost him. Today, after 16 years Bimo has not yet returned, Pak Tomo started to make peace with himself. He claimed that his mind was full of anger and grief. He also claimed his speeches were always emotional with curses.
At first, Pak Tomo also could not resist the anger and sadness. She always thinking and weeping about Bimo. She was also asked her husband why he never cried. Pak Tomo said, crying is not visible. Actually, in his heart he cried deeper. God knows it.
One time Pak Tomo told her, "Do not cry, honey. People who cried, their mind are not clear. They can not think straight. It's better to pray than to cry." Pak Tomo always encourage his wife to pray and they should ontinue to live their life with grace and gratitude. He says, "It is more peaceful than being angry and swearing."
In recent years he has begun to find his peace. When I asked if that meant he was letting Bimo go? Pak Tomo disagree. "How to let him go? If I knew he's already dead, I will let him go. But he disappeared, gone undiscovered. How can I let him go?" However, he claimed to have been able to accept the reality that he would never see Bimo again.
After talking for almost an hour and a half, Pak Tomo had to go home to Malang by train. We exchanged phone numbers and again Pak Tomo thank me or anyone who had concerns about Bimo. After shaking hands, I told him I wished him and his wife to be healthy. And then I turned and walked away.
On the way home I could not hold my emotions. Pak Tomo and his wife had been entrusted by God with a great child who contributed to making a difference in this country. God had also chosen Pak Tomo to support his son so that his son never he was felt fighting alone.
Thanks for everything Bimo. Like your last name, Anugrah (a gift), you are a gift to this country. I pray for you, wherever you are, hopefully you are always in peace with happiness. As you strove for peace and happiness for others.