Comfort for the Rebels

The Dutch waged war against Acehnese officially in 1873 which resulted in the retreat of their troops due to the shot-death captain, Kohler by the Acehnese. Their second expedition in 1874 however succeeded to occupy the main palace of the sultanate in Kutaradja and the Sultan fleed from the palace days before the attack. This war really ended 40 years since then.

For decades the Acehnese have put their lives for generations to oppose colonialism and imperialisme in their land. Not only hundreds of thousands lives sacrificed, included higher number of ulama and umara, but also perhaps, intentionally or unintentionally, bargaining their values for the comfort lives under the colonial power.
There were increasing numbers of Acehnese nobles and their loyal supporters decided to shake hands with the Dutch. In exchange, they were given positions, life expenses and lands to profit from. Some of them were also sent by the Dutch to perform pilgrimage and returned with honourable title as the ‘Haji’ which later labelled as Dutch-made Ulama. Indeed, it was the strategy to kneel down the stubborn Acehnese, displaying that they still could be a living Muslim if they surrender. This development was made possible by the help of the genius liberalist orientalist, C. SnouckHurgronje who propagate the importance to get the ‘heart’ of the common Acehnese through non-violent effort and on the other hand, crushing with iron fist the Acehnese who joined with the rebels.
The Acehnese ulama and the sultan who witness such condition initiated the release of fatwa calling that performing the hajj was not more obligatory than the jihad against the oppressing colonial regime. This fatwa was delivered during the mass jumah prayer in meunasah (village mosque) through hikayat teller such as Abdulkarim aka Dokarim. It was penned down under the name of Hikayat Prang Gompeuni on the order of C. SnouckHurgronje.
One of the most significant efforts was Baiturrahman mosque construction in 1888 in Kutaradja. Basically the Dutch demolished the old mosque that bore the symbol of the Sultanate as the ruler of the land and replaced it with the Middle Eastern or Indian type of mosque with distinguished domes and minaret. The message behind this replacement was emphasizing the changing regime from the old to the new. From the Sultanate government to the colonial one. Automatically the mosque became a tool to attract Acehnese to pray there and listen to the pro-Dutch preacher or the Dutch-made ulama who dished elements for obtaining support to the Dutch and eject the rebels.  It was perhaps too scanty to see for those who had been living under famine, poverty and illiteracy caused by the prolonged war. The Acehnese sympathy the Dutch gained after the construction had led to more public facilities construction such as bridges.
The construction of bridges has been recorded by numerous colonial photographer such as Justin van Nesssau, Niuewnhuis and so on. The bridges are located in few places in Kutaradja and Aceh Proper. Those are built not only for transporting colonial needs but also for the comfort of the Acehnese public in accessing their related settlement.
 Later on, under the ethical policies for the colony in early 20th century, The Dutch built not only schools and railways but also provided door to door medical treatment for the Acehnese.  The open war was indirectly ended. The guerrilla fighters scattered mostly in the rural areas. Individual fighters appear sometimes in the city and killed any European. As it had been documented by R. A Kern in his report, the Acehnese fighters that were arrested were mentally abnormal. Those fighters then were labelled as ‘Mad Acehnese’.
Perhaps what survive the struggle up to more than 40 years was the will of the representatives of the sultanates such as the ulama and Sultan Muhammad DaudSyah who continue to resist and participated directly in the open war against the Dutch until 1911 or before his wives and son taken hostage which followed by his surrender. Such spiritful group of rebels, although not necessarily won the field battle against the powerful Dutch had championed themselves as the only core in the Acehnese society who refused the imperialistic and capitalistic comfort from the Dutch. The fact that the Dutch regime only rule mostly in the areas of Aceh proper proved their failure to take Aceh.
The death of the ulama and the surrender of the Sultan and other key persons smoothed the implementation of ethical policy. Certain groups such as those of noblemen (uleebalang) who was funded for education in Sumatra, Java, and Netherlands managed to gain more influence and attracted significant number of peasants. However, the followers of the ‘old school’ were hardly rebuked.
Post the defeat of Japanese in 1945 the Dutch did not try to enter Aceh. Soon the Dutch gave up this territory to Batavia. All the buildings that were constructed during the Dutch period were destroyed either during the Japanese occupation or during the military counteractive against the DII/TII rebels in 1950s. The remnants of those building hardly can be witnessed today.
Alfian, Ibrahim. (1987). Perang di Jalan Allah: Perang Aceh 1873-1912, Jakarta: PustakaSinarHarapan.
Wieringa, Edwin. (1998). The Dream of the King and the Holy War against the Dutch: The Koteubah of the Acehnese Epic, Hikayat Prang Gompeuni, in Bulletin of the School of the Oriental and African Studies, (61), 2, 298-308.
SnouckHurgronje. (1994).  Arab dan Hindia Belanda in Kumpulan Karangan Snouck Hurgronje IX, Sultan Maimun and Rahayu S Hidayat (trans), Jakarta: INIS.
Kern R.A. (16 December 1921). Onderzoek Atjeh Moorden: A Report for General Govenor, Kernpapieren H. 797/159 K


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