Bung Tomo, Romanticism of General Kancil by Tanah Arek

Bung Tomo, Romanticism of General Kancil by Tanah Arek

“If there is no takbir, I do not know how to burn the spirit of the youth to fight against the invaders!” (Brother Tomo).

His name is Sutomo, people call him Bung Tomo. Whenever Indonesia commemorates the events of November 10, which became Heroes’ Day, Bung Tomo is also mentioned every time. This little character, whom Bung Karno nicknamed General Kancil, was the initiator of the resistance of the Surabaya arek with the aim of pushing back the British (allied) troops supported by the Dutch in the battle. Battle of Surabaya this history.

Historian and former Minister of Education and Culture Nugroho Notosusanto in his book Battle of Surabaya (1986) stated that the Battle of Surabaya was the most tense battle with the great spirit of patriotism of the Indonesian people. Likewise, Ricklefs in A history of modern Indonesia wrote that the Battle of Surabaya was the fiercest war of the revolutionary period. The Allies themselves regarded the battle as hell (hell) which is very inconvenient.

At that time, the resistance force of the people of Surabaya showed tenacity in attacking the Allies for three weeks. A total of 6,000 to 16,000 Republican fighters have died and 200,000 civilians have been displaced. On the other side, at least 2,000 people have been killed. Even the commander of the British troops, Brigadier General AWS Mallaby was killed in the battle.

The Battle of Surabaya erupted when British troops on behalf of the Allies as the victors of World War II came to Indonesia to disarm Japanese troops and free Europeans who were prisoners of war. Among these captives were also the Dutch. Before the arrival of the Allied troops, the Indonesians had taken arms from the Japanese army. This was not appreciated by the Allies who wanted to disarm the Japanese. They landed in Jakarta on September 15, 1945 and made subsequent landings in parts of Indonesia.

Previously, on August 24, 1945, an agreement had been reached Civil matter agreement between England and the Netherlands. The agreement contained the British desire to help the Dutch restore power in Indonesia after the Japanese surrender. Thus, the British included the Dutch civil apparatus called the Civil Administration of the Netherlands Indies (NICA) in the landing in Indonesia. This is what provoked the anger and resistance of the Indonesian people so much that there was fighting against the (British) Allies in various places, notably in Surabaya.

Through Indonesian People’s Rebellion Radio, Bung Tomo sparked popular resistance by ignoring the ultimatum from British Army chief Major General Mansergh (deputy to Brigadier General Mallaby) to stand to return. “It is better for us to be crushed than not to be free. Our motto remains: freedom or death!… Believe me brothers. God will protect us all. Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest! Independent! ” Bung Tomo shouted in one of his speeches, responding to the ultimatum.

Bung Tomo’s speech got even crazier after the publication of the Jihad resolution led by KH Hasyim Asy’ari (founder of Nahdlatul Ulama) and the Ulemas of East Java. The takbir cry that accompanied Bung Tomo’s speech was a suggestion from KH Hasyim Asyari when Bung Tomo visited his residence in Tebuireng. For Kiai Hasyim, there were only two great influential actors with thunderous and captivating voices, namely Bung Karno and Bung Tomo.

Indeed, Bung Tomo was not the only leader of the parade of November 10, 1945 in Surabaya. Other names include Major General R Mohammad Mangunprodjo, Colonel Sungkono, Colonel Djonosewojo, and Colonel Moestopo. However, the figure of Bung Tomo is legendary. Besides being one of the brave leaders of the People’s Army, his speeches were successful in maintaining the morale of the Suroboyo people. The purpose of all his words is the same: to ignite courage against foreign armies much stronger on paper.

Historian Rusdhy Husein said that the daily Bung Tomo prayer at half past six in the afternoon is still expected. People gathered around speaker poles scattered around various corners of Surabaya. Bung Tomo’s voice on Rebellion Radio was even heard as far away as Yogyakarta.

Romance in the midst of battle

In addition to fighters who are good at giving speeches, Bung Tomo is also good at writing. He also showed his insight when he wrote a love letter to his future wife, Sulistina, a girl member of the Red Cross who was responsible for tending to fallen and injured Republican troops. History is written in the book Dude Tomo My husband, written by Sulistina.

Bung Tomo as a character famous for his well-groomed and beautiful appearance, indeed in his time became one of the idols of the people, including a number of women who fought for his attention. But Sulistina was very different from girls. The beautiful girl was indifferent when Bung Tomo came. He didn’t know, Bung Tomo had fallen in love with him from the first sight.

“Oh, why are you so arrogant?” my friend me no delok I pity, although liana delok I (Ah, how come you are so arrogant with me, you don’t see it at all, even if the others see me) “, recalls Sulistina, imitating the words of a suroboic of Bung Tomo who has a crush on him, as Hany Akasah recounts in Heroic and Romantic Bung Tomo.

Bung Tomo’s struggle to win his future wife didn’t end there. He then wrote a letter; “If there is an enemy who is ready to shoot, and who will be cut down think about it again, it will take too long. I am known as a good leader and I am a guide who is holy in word and deed. I will not let you down.”

According to Sulis, at that time, few men dared to approach him. However, it was the man who was born in the land of Arek (Surabaya), who dared to approach him. “He even dared to confess his love to me. From there, I realized that behind Mas Tomo’s tough figure, there was also a romantic side.”

They then begin their love affair in January 1946. However, the city of Surabaya still being controlled by Allied troops, they meet in secret. Bung Tomo, who was known as the leader of the Indonesian People’s Rebellion Front (BPRI), was one of the figures targeted by the Allied Army at the time. In fact, because they were still being driven out by the Dutch, after getting married, Bung Tomo had to move to Yogyakarta.


Bung Tomo was born in the village of Blauran, Surabaya, on October 3, 1920. His father was Kartawan Tjiptowidjojo from a middle class family. He had worked as a government employee while his mother was a local distributor for a sewing machine company. His childhood is spent in his hometown. After attending the basic education level, he entered his first school education at MULO. At the age of 12, he dropped out of school and did odd jobs. However, after that, he continued his studies at HBS by correspondence, but never officially graduated.

After that, Sutomo joined the Indonesian National Scouts (KBI). Here he seemed to be receiving education as a replacement for formal education. He became aware of nationalism and the struggle thanks to this scouting activity. In fact, he became a member of the best scouts in the Dutch East Indies and began to be known to many people.

Besides being active in scouting, Bung Tomo is also involved in the world of writing. He started his career as a journalist at the age of 17. The media where he works include daily Soeara Oemoem, Daily Javanese Express, weekly Defender of the People, and reviews Poestaka Timoer. Bung Tomo was previously deputy editor of the Japanese Occupation News Agency, Domei, and the editor-in-chief of the news agency Between in Surabaya in 1945.

Through Between, he spread the news of the proclamation of Indonesian independence and inspired the people to maintain the independence acquired vis-à-vis foreign nations who wanted to recolonize the Republic. He preached it in Javanese so as not to be censored by the Japanese invaders.

After independence, Bung Tomo became Minister of State for Armed War Veterans (Veterans) as well as Acting Minister of Social Affairs (1955-1956) during Prime Minister Burhanuddin Harahap’s Office. Bung Tomo was also listed as a member of the RPD in 1956-1959, representing the Indonesian People’s Party he founded.

Not only known as a patriot, Bung Tomo was also a religious hero. Nonetheless, Bung Tomo is one of the male figures in Indonesia who most strongly rejects polygamy. In his biography, Brother Tomo (2019), written by Abdul Waid, he sees polygamy as an attempt by men to indulge in lust, but it can harm the integrity of the family. He even criticized President Soekarno for marrying many women.

When Sukarno implemented Guided Democracy, Bung Tomo argued that this conception was too forced and that there was nothing the Indonesian people had to accept. He also criticized Bung Karno and generals whom he considered morally decaying for weakening the value of family unity by having more than one wife and being trapped in “playing with women”.

After the fall of Sukarno and his replacement by Suharto, his critical attitude did not fade. For President Soeharto, Bung Tomo’s critique was on “cukongism” as the realization of nepotism through the excessive economic role of non-native entrepreneurs. Apart from that, Bung Tomo also strongly criticized the role of personal assistant (aspri) which he saw as often breaking boundaries.

All of Bug Tomo’s criticisms and prosecutions of the Old and New Order governments are recorded in the book. Bung Tomo pursues 246 pages thick, published in 2008. Due to his critical attitude, on April 11, 1978, he was arrested by the government. A year later, he was released.

Bung Tomo’s life course finally came to a halt at the age of 61. He died in Padang Arafah, Saudi Arabia on October 7, 1981 while on the pilgrimage. His body was brought back to Indonesia and buried in a public cemetery in Jalan Ngagel, Surabaya.


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