Tanah Datar Tragedy
A student of an Islamic boarding school was tortured to death by his schoolmates. Due application of the law is urgent in the interests of upholding education.
The torture to the death of a student of an Islamic boarding school (pesantren) in Tanah Datar, West Sumatra, is the latest in a long list of tragedies in the world of Indonesia’s education. Bullying laced with violence, usually occurring in general and service schools, has obviously now spread to pesantrens. The tragic case which happened in the Pesantren Modern Nurul Ikhlas needs to be duly processed in accordance with the law while maintaining regard for the perpetrators’ futures.
Tens of students (known as santri) of the pesantren allegedly tortured their schoolmate, Robby Al-Halim, 18, during sleeping hours over a period of several days in early February. The victim was rushed to hospital, but could not be saved. It is highly regrettable that the pesantren’s management initially tried to cover up the incident. Also the parents of the perpetrators, who tried hard to coax the victim’s family into a peaceful settlement.
Efforts to settle peacefully should only have been attempted after the police had taken things in hand. Despite not yet having reached adulthood, the perpetrators cannot avoid legal process because all are over the age 12. Torture, after all, is a crime, even in the event the perpetrators’ can later prove that the victim often stole from his friends.
According to the Law on the Juvenile Delinquency Justice System, settlement out of court or other diversions can be designed from since the investigation phase. But law enforcers first need to determine the level of misdeed conducted by the santris who participated in the act of torture. According to the same law, only perpetrators with possible punishment of below seven years imprisonment can attempt due settlement outside of court.
The parents of the perpetrators need not be overly anxious if their offspring do get taken to juvenile court. Juvenile sentencing always considers the minors’ futures, including their education. In the event they do get sentenced, criminal punishment for underage perpetrators is only half of that applicable to adult perpetrators.
The police should also collar the pesantren management for alleged carelessness or criminal act of omission. What is outstandingly clear, the pesantren’s supervision is appallingly weak, considering the torturing happened repeatedly. The victim was also rushed to hospital far too late, resulting in his death. In fact the case only came to light after the victim’s uncle submitted a report to the police.
The tragedy of the Tanah Datar santri adds to the list of cases besmirching the reputation of pesantrens. Not too long ago, a similar case of torturing happened in Lamongan, East Java. A santri sustained multiple injuries throughout his entire body after being beaten up and submerged in a bathtub by his schoolmates. The police have determined several perpetrators as suspects. Similar to the Tanah Datar case, the perpetrators accused the victim as having a penchant for stealing from his friends.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs needs to deploy a team to seek clarification as to the cause of these acts of torture at the two pesantrens. Their education methods and the management systems of the pesantrens need to be scrutinized. The ministry has to mete out appropriate sanctions to negligent pesantrens. Not only were they careless in supervising their santri, the two pesantrens obviously failed to educate their wards.
The behavior of vicious santri goes against the grain of the ideals of pesantren teaching which seeks to imbue morals and an understanding of religious teaching to its students. The Tanah Datar and Lamongan tragedies should push the central and local governments to conduct tighter scrutiny over how pesantrens are run. A similar tragedy must never occur again.