Farmers in Indonesia are resorting to extreme measures of protest to show the government how the construction of a cement factory will paralyse their lives.
Sticking their feet in cement and thus unable to move for days, the women behind the rallies are called the Kartinis of Kendeng – named after Indonesia’s most famous female fighter for women’s rights, Raden Adjeng Kartini.
The women say that cement factories built in the Karst Mountains in central Java will ruin their land and pollute their water-supply and irrigation systems.
“I will fight to my last drop of blood because our ancestors fought for this land for hundreds of years, and that’s why we now can enjoy the water and the fruits from this land,” Sukinah, a protest leader, said.
“We won’t allow it to disappear like that.”
Kendeng Mountain is a part of the Karst Mountains that contains not only springs and underground rivers but also chalk that is used in the production of cement.
While smaller companies have been mining here for years, now larger ones are coming.
But the legal battle is ongoing.
One factory was due to start production last November, until the Supreme Court revoked its permit, saying the company’s environmental programme was unclear.
The state governor re-issued the permit after PT Semen Indonesia nearly halved the area it planned to mine.
Environmental groups say the permit goes against the Supreme Court decision.
Then Indonesian President Joko Widodo intervened in the dispute and ordered a new environmental assessment.
While the women fight to protect their land, the cement companies insist factories will help develop the impoverished region.
“At the national level, the mine and factory will help maintain Indonesia’s development and the demand for cement can be fulfilled,” said Heru Indra Wijayanto, project manager.
But while the company promises the factory will provide work for nearly 2,000 people, the farmers say their land can provide an income to many more.
“What we want to show is that Indonesia is being shackled by cement and by the industry,” said Gunretno, an activist.
“Indonesia is an agrarian nation, what needs to be done is to develop farm land.”