Kiras Bangun, A Pride Hero of Tanah Karo

Jakarta (11/7/2014) – Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is a strong motto to unite the diversity of ethnics and cultures in Indonesia. This plural slogan turned out to be implemented first by Kiras Bangun, a prominent figure from Tanah Karo, precisely in the area of Batu Karang, Karo regency, North Sumatera. The prominent which was born in 1852 had collected power across the various religion and tribes in North Sumatera and Aceh to fight against the colonialism of Dutch.

In fighting against Dutch, Kiras Bangun conducted a cooperation across the religion and tribes resulting around 3000 troops. His troops was well-known as Pasukan Urung (Village Troops) since his troops were basically consisted of country people of Tanah Karo and Aceh. Pasukan Urung was several times involved in battle against Dutch in Tanah Karo. Kiras Bangun who also was called by Garamata (red eye) was originally derived from a family mastering the Karo custom in Batu Karang. Kiras Bangun had 4 siblings, a sister and 3 brothers.

Within his youth, Kiras Bangun attended school in Binjai and mastered Malay and Karo letters. Kiras Bangun was known as a wise young man in defending the people rights taken by Dutch. In his life course, Kiras Bangun got many positions, such as Indigenous Elders of Karo, Chairman of Urung (village) Lima Senina, Muslim leader of Lima Senina Batu Karang, Peace speaker of War among village, and Leaders  of Urung Tanah Karo.

Kiras Bangun’s struggle had been started since 1870 when Dutch occupied the east part of Sumatera, precisely in Langkat and around Binjai. In that moment, Dutch opened rubber and tobacco plantation in the area. In 1901, Dutch had a plan to expand their plantation area to Tanah Karo. The dutch who had learned the charisma and popularity of Kiras Bangun, tried to develop diplomacy by sending representative and offering money, rank, and weapon as bribery. However, Kiras Bangun resisted the offering. The rejection reflected the character of Kiras Bangun which prioritize the people interest before his personal one.

Through his ability to negotiate, Kiras Bangun successfully invited the Kings in Tanah Karo to hold a meeting. The conference resulted a decision that Dutch was allowed to make a friendship with Karo people as long as they appreciate and respect each other. In addition, Dutch was forbidden to enter Tanah Karo and got involved in the governmental issue of Tanah Karo. The deal among the kings in Karo finally closed the possibility of Dutch to enter Tanah Karo through diplomacy way.

Nevertheless, Dutch didn’t seem to give up to take Tanah Karo over. In 1902, they sent a number of troops to Tanah Karo but Kiras Bangun warned Dutch soldiers to go imminently. This effort didn’t make the squad led by Guillaume surrendered by staying still up to three months long. Observing the suspicious act by the Dutch troops, Kiras Bangun was trying to build power along with some Urung to ask Dutch away from Tanah Karo. This attempt succeded it left the Dutch in furious and the situation was becoming more intense.

Kiras Bangun then developed power by involving the figures of southeast and south Aceh to get rid of the Dutch attack which can cause a loss in his side. Another effort he did was invigorating the conference among the kings to prepare the strategy and plan to fight against the Dutch. The agreement result emerged an idea to form troops and built the fort of defense in every village. Kiras Bangun was never in despair though he knew that the weaponry of them was not enough. They only relied on sword, machetes, spears, and guns. By igniting the fight spirit og the thousand of Karo people with the bonding of “Loyal Vow to Fight Against Dutch”, Kiras Bangun successfully united some groups with different culture and ethnic background to achieve the common goal. Kiras Bangun was not only a charismatic leader, but also a good public speaker he could ingnite the struggle spirit of those people he led.

Kiras Bangun fight against Dutch had been started since the Dutch conducted attack in 1904 killing 20 casualties of Simbisa Urung troops. This attack was done in some places, including Kabanjahe. Kiras Bangun troops warned ultimatums twice but they were not listened. The Dutch added the amount of their personnel instead. The attack of Dutch to Urung troops became out of control. A strength in weaponry took the Dutch to gradually take over the fort of Urung, including occupying Batu Karang and causing 30 people killed. Nd. Releng br Ginting, Kiras Bangun’s wife suffered from shot on this battle.

After Batu Karang was occupied by the Dutch, the center of Defense moved to Liren, Kuta Gamber, Kempawa, Pamah, and Lau Petundal. This region was located in the border of South aceh, Southeast Aceh, and Tanah Karo. The selection of these places was conducted because the terrain is mountainous, with steep valleys, less fertile and sparsely populated. The big amount of victims falling in this attack didn’t make Kiras Bangun give up. Aside of the vow that bonded them, the spirit of fighting also raged with the motto which always be instilled by Kiras Bangun to fight against Dutch no matter what. The motto was “namo bisa jadi aras, aras bisa jadi namo” which meant sounding now we lose, tomorrow we win.

In recessive condition, Dutch offered Opportinuteits Beginsiel (opportunity principal or using situation) to Kiras Bangun. The heroic soul of Kiras Bangun which always put his people interest first made him accept the Dutch offer insincerely. He considered the humanity and his heart was broken to witness how many people killed due to this attack. Finding out the step that Kiras took along with his troops which was under their influence, Dutch broke the agreement by punishing Kiras Bangun in isolation in Riung for 4 years, and liberated in 1909. Right after being liberated, Kiras Bangun didn’t stop to fight against Dutch. Within 1919-1926, assisted by his two sons, Kiras Bangun delivered underground movement it created battle in Tanah Karo. This battle caused him and his sons were thrown away to Cipinang as a punishment. Kiras Bangun passed away in his land of birth in Batu Karang on October 22, 1942.

According to the note of former general chief of Garamata foundation, Mulia Tarigan, the fight spirit of Kiras Bangun is something good to learn. The life philosophy of Kiras Bangun is to put the people’s interest first before the personal one. The figure of Kiras Bangun can be a role model so that Indonesia can still grow even in the difficult situation. On November 7, 2005 according to Surat Keputusan President of Republic of Indonesia No. 82/TK/Tahun 2005, Kiras Bangun was designated as a national hero after a series of studies of 13 experts, including historians involvement of Anhar Gonggong and Taufik Abdullah. His heroic story provides a good lesson that different religion and custom is not a barrier which creates disharmony, but a uniting element to unite building determination and purpose for the sake of ultimate common goal.