Bersiap Controversy and Violence in the Period 1945-1950
The term “Bersiap” sparked controversy in the Netherlands after Bonnie Trlyana’s article was published. How do the Dutch view this period of violence in 1945-1950?
Tempo, January 26, 2022, by: Lea Pemungkas
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There is a commotion in the Netherlands over the word “Bersiap”. There, the word refers to the period of violence that befell the Dutch in Indonesia during 1945-1950. This commotion was triggered by Bonnie Triyana’s article in the Dutch daily NRC. The article with the original title “Istilah Bersiap yang Problematis” (The problematic term of Bersiap) which was published on Historia, for some reason, appeared with the title “Schrap term ‘Bersiap’ voor periodical want die is racistisch” (Delete the term ‘Bersiap’ for Periodization because it is racist) on NRC online. In the printed edition of the NRC, the title becomes “Simplicerende term ‘Bersiap’ deugt niet als periode-naam” (Simplifying term ‘Bersiap’ is not right as the name for the period.)
The title used by the NRC which emphasizes the element of “racism” is what sparked controversy as well as drowned out the important explanation that Bonnie wanted to raise. The Federation of Dutch-Indo people (FIN), a group consisting of Indies with historical ties to the Dutch East Indies and Indo-Europeans, objected to the term “Bersiap” to be tampered with under any pretext, especially under racist pretexts.
Bonnie Triyana is now a guest curator of the exhibition “Revolutie, Indonesië onafhankelijk” (“Revolution, Indonesian Independence”) at the Rijksmuseum, Netherlands. The article serves as a kind of introduction to the exhibition on Indonesian history. In his article, Bonnie says, if we use the term ‘Bersiap’ in general for violence against the Dutch in Indonesia during this period, it has a very racist connotation.
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