The story is taken from my personal experience in the past. When I was a little boy, I live with my parents in a small village by the teak forests. Gunungsari is the name of our village, which is administratively located in the regency of Ngawi, East Java.
Like most villages in Ngawi, Gunungsari become an arid village in a dry season. Water is very limited and usually only found in the drying stream or in the paddy fields. Some people there said that the remaining water in the dry season is only suitable for birds to drink. That’s why water is become very valuable for the villagers. They dig the wells together when water becomes limited.
The life in Gunungsari is similar to other villages that located around the teak forests. About 120 families of Gunungsari live from seasonal plants in their dry farmland, collect firewood from the forests, or collect grass for their cattle.
My parents’ house was only about 20 meters away from the forest edge. The forest around the house was 150 hectares. It was guarded day and night by 14 forest rangers or “mandor”, as the forest administered by a state-own company named Perum Perhutani. Those mandors were not locals, but came from other places.
Villagers were very respectful towards those mandors, as they called them “pak”. When those mandors firstly came, they stayed with the villagers. Later on those mandors then built their own houses. Housing materials were taken from the surrounding forests. But, they did not build one house each. They built more than what they need to use. Sometimes each mandor could have 5 houses. They made money from those houses, as they sell them out.
One day, the villagers plan to build a small mosque called “langgar”. They went to those mandors and ask for support. They hope can get some woods from the surrounding forests. But this effort seemed not successful as those mandors only gave 6 pieces of planks. The villagers still need to get the rest required materials from somewhere else, but NOT from Perhutani’s forests. Off course the villagers were very disappointed with this. They saw how mandors easily built lots of teak-houses and then sell it out. In the other way around, mandors made it difficult to donate woods for a small mosque.
Other disappointment also happened personally with my uncle. He suddenly picked up by mandors and brought to the police. He was accused guilty as he collects young Mahogany leaves to feed his goats. My uncle detained in Ngawi Police Office without any court processes. He was very disappointed with this injustice situation that happened. Five years later, when he returned home from the arrest, he made a shocking action at Gunungsari. He cut down all of the teak trees around mandors’ houses. No one can stop his action, as he also brought a loaded-shotgun when doing this. He cleaned almost 5 hectares of teak forest. This madly action was ended by himself. He did not take any woods from this action at all. No effort so far to make a legal case against him.
A few years after the mad action, other disappointment rise out again. It happened when there was a replanting program by Perhutani. Perhutani gave a promise to the villagers. Every villager who helps to plant trees will get free seedlings from Perhutani. But Perhutani failed to fulfill this promise after all of those trees being planted well. One mandor showed a piece of formal letter to the villagers. The letter said that seedlings are not free. If the villagers want to get them, they have to pay Rp 300 per seedling with maximum purchase of 50 seedlings. It was surprised the villagers, as they hope to get free seedlings to be planted in their land. This disappointment then turned into revenge action by the villagers. They robbed the seedlings directly from Perhutani’s nursery.
Gunungsari villagers have a prolonged disappointment to Perhutani’s mandors. Mandors became rich from their teak-houses. Meanwhile villagers remain poor and in the end being forced to cut down the forests for their life or being accused as forest criminals.