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Boven Digul: A Political History of Exile and Development

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Boven Digul, a region in Papua, Indonesia, has a complex political history and was influential in the struggle for Indonesian independence. In 1927, the Dutch government established the Boven Digul Internment Camp as a place of exile for political prisoners involved in communist rebellions in Banten and West Sumatra. The camp was located in an inland area far from the center of Batavia and was known as the “Land of Hope” for movements that did not return to their home territories.

Initially, the political prisoners exiled in this camp were those involved in the communist rebellions in Banten and West Sumatra in 1926-1927. However, in later years, nationalist figures also became residents of the camp. The prisoners were allowed to bring their families. To meet the educational needs of the internment camp, the Dutch colonial government established the Standaardschool in 1927 which later became the Standaardschool met Nederlandsch. The naturalist ten-prisoner group was also allowed to establish a school called Malay English School (MES), which later became a “three-family” school, held in the homes of the prisoners.

In the 1940s, students from the “three-family” school were admitted to the Standaardschool, as many teachers changed professions. They sought other livelihoods when relief supplies decreased due to the Japanese blockade of the waters around Papua. Both the Standaardschool, the MES, and the ‘three families’ school were only for the families of political prisoners. Therefore, the existence of these schools had no impact on the indigenous communities around the exile camps.

The banishment of political figures to Boven Digul was not a sanction imposed after a legal process, but an administrative measure. The second wave of exiles to Digul took place in 1933. Most of those interned were political activists from PNI Baru, PARI, PSII, PERMI, and PARTINDO. Some of them, such as Sutan Sjahrir, T.A. Murad, and Sukarno, were interned in Boven Digul because of their sharp writings in Pewarta Deli which criticized the attitude of the colonial police.

Boven Digul became a place of exile for political figures and independence pioneers during the Dutch East Indies colonial period. This influenced the struggle for Indonesian independence because the political prisoners in Boven Digul included Sukarno, who felt that Digul land was a place to sow the seeds of independence. Sukarno also referred to the figures as Romantika fighters, which further strengthened Sukarno’s claim to Papua as part of Indonesia.

How the pioneering figures of independence written in Stories from Digul influenced the story of life in the land of Boven Digul.

In Stories from Digul, Pramoedya Ananta Toer describes how the pioneers of independence faced severe hardships in Boven Digul, but they continued to fight and became examples of courage and loyalty to the struggle for Indonesian independence.

The pioneers of Independence written in the story from Digul influenced the story of life in the Land of Boven Digul in the following way:

          They became victims of the cruelty of the Dutch colonial government, which cracked down on the Indonesian nationalist movement.

          They were exiled to Boven Digul, a harsh exile isolated from civilization.

          They endured severe hardships, such as lack of food, poor health, and loss of self-awareness.

          They became an example of courage and loyalty to the struggle for Indonesian independence, even in the face of extreme hardship and suffering.

          They became an inspiration for the next generation to continue to struggle and fight for Indonesian independence.


In the era of Reformation and Special Autonomy for Papua, the existence of historical sites in Boven Digoel must be managed well to improve education and tourism development. Boven Digoel plays an important role in the stage of Indonesian history, especially in the national movement.

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