“Hinting Pali”, Farmers’ Custom Solution
Farmers become victims when their fields are turned into mining pits or palm oil plantations. When they do not know what steps to take, they turn to the \'hinting pali\' ritual.
Land transformation in Central Kalimantan often results in agrarian conflicts. Farmers become victims when their fields are turned into mining pits or palm oil plantations. When they do not know what steps to take, they turn to the hinting pali ritual.
One Monday morning in mid-May, Merlin, 63, a Lawang Uru resident in Pulang Pisau regency, Central Kalimantan, wore a red headband. His steps were sprightly.
Sweat trickled down his wrinkled skin. He had walked for 7 kilometers to reach the venue of the hinting pali ritual.
The hut was in the middle of a palm oil plantation belonging to a private company. Other residents, police personnel and company representatives were in attendance.
One by one the residents arrived, bringing various items for the hinting pali ritual. One resident brought a pig, while another brought a bag of rice. Other items included dawen sawang (asparagus leaves), chalk, rattan rope and some pillars.
Upu Ucun Tirunuk, 53, known as a basir (religious leader) of the Kaharingan community, sat in the middle of the crowd.
He uttered prayers to start the ritual. A pig, whose legs were tied, was lifted up on wooden bars. Upu took a spear and jammed it into the animal.
Its blood was then poured into a plastic glass filled with white rice. Upu uttered prayers in Sangiang (spirit), a language only understood by the basir.
While saying his prayers, Upu took the blood-covered rice and sprinkled it around the hut.
Afterward, Merlin and some friends began weaving a rattan rope spanning 5 meters onto the wooden pillars.
The rope was then strung across a new path, recently opened by the plantation owner.
After the rattan rope was attached, asparagus leaves were put on it. Symbols of the cross were drawn on the leaves using white chalk. “I invite the spirits to come and guard this area,” Upu said.
Upu said hinting was a border sign and pali was a restriction. The rope shows the border areas, which the residents claim to be theirs. “Those who cross this line and damage it will get punished. The punishment will come from the spirit of our ancestors,” Upu said.
Uruh Kalara, 63, a Lawang Uru resident, has cultivated 4 hectares of land since 1983, which is now the plantation belonging to PT Agrindo Green Lestari (AGL). He has not received any compensation.
“I have lost my mind. How can I lodge this complaint? Nobody helped me in the past three years. I couldn’t cultivate the land during that time,” Uruh said.
Merlin and other residents shared the same feeling. They had prepared the ritual for a month. About 200 ha of rubber plantation belonging to them were transformed into a palm oil plantation.
Responding to this, PT AGL planting manager Sugiono said there was a misunderstanding between the residents and the company regarding land transformation. He promised to listen to the people and look for a way to prevent more conflict.
“We fully accept this ritual. The important thing is that it doesn’t affect access for our vehicles. Essentially, everything is working well. We’ll intensify communications with the farmers,” Sugiono added.
PT AGL received a land transformation permit in 2014 for 9,834 ha. It began working the land in 2015.
Central Kalimantan culture observer Linggua Sanjaya Usop said hinting pali was like a “police line”, guarded by a spirit.
“Those who perform hinting pali are the defeated people. This is their struggle to demand their rights,” Linggua added.
He said it had now become a contra-hegemony movement by the Dayak community against plantation companies and the government.
“This is effective because in many cases, companies are willing to communicate with the farmers and give offers,” Linggua added.
In 2012, Murung Raya regency residents used hinting pali to drive away a mining company that damaged a holy site in the Tanah Siang Selatan district.
In 2016, Tumbang Mantuhe residents, Gunung Mas regency, also used hinting pali on a palm oil plantation. Eventually, the plantation was returned to the residents and they received compensation for their rubber trees.
Central Kalimantan Indonesia Forum of the Environment (Walhi) data showed that there were 265 agrarian conflicts in the plantation and mining areas of 134,061 ha covering 14 regencies and municipalities in Central Kalimantan from 2005 to 2014. Many have not been resolved.
Last year, there were 16 cases of agrarian conflicts over a total area of 8,566 ha. Around 80 percent of those cases occurred in palm oil plantation areas. “The majority of the conflicts from 2005 have not been resolved. This must not be left as is,” Central Kalimantan Walhi executive director Dimas Novian Hartono said.
Dimas added that hinting pali was used by the Dayak community because the government had failed to give much attention to agrarian conflict resolution.
“Losing a plantation means losing jobs. We have to bear in mind that for them the plantation is not only an asset, it’s also about cultural sustainability,” Dimas said.
Central Kalimantan Governor Sugianto Sabran said he had organized a special meeting with the Central Kalimantan apparatus working unit (SKPD) to discuss conflicts on palm oil plantations. The meeting also involved the Dayak Custom Office in Central Kalimantan.
“So far, the people use customary methods to solve problems peacefully. The government must be present to prevent further conflicts.”
He added that companies should appreciate and respect Dayak customs, including taking care of all sites inside the concessionaire areas.