Tumbang Anoi 1894: A Miscalculated Tactic by the Dutch East Indies

Tumbang Anoi in 1894.

Tumbang Anoi, which is now administratively located in Gunung Mas Regency, Central Kalimantan Province, is a must-visit historical tourist destination. Why is it a must-visit? Because this site was the meeting point for Dayak tribes from Borneo for three months from May to August 1894.

In their efforts to dominate the archipelago, the Dutch East Indies often employed various political strategies. 

One renowned tactic was divide et impera or divide and rule, which proved effective in Java due to the island's unique social and political structure.

Salt starvation

 In Java, the Sultan and the people maintained a close and harmonious relationship through the concept of manunggal ing kawula lan gusti, which signifies the unity between ruler and subjects.

However, the situation was different in Kalimantan, particularly with the Dayak tribes. Given the decentralized social structure of the Dayak, which lacked a central authority like in Java, the Dutch had to devise an alternative strategy.

To control the Dayak tribes, the Dutch employed a strategy known as "salt starvation". This tactic involved uniting the often warring Dayak tribes, particularly through the practice of kayau (inter-tribal warfare), to pacify and subsequently dominate them. In this context, salt, a vital commodity controlled by the Dutch, became a crucial tool.

However, this tactic proved to be a miscalculation. Instead of weakening the Dayak tribes through resource control, it inadvertently fostered a spirit of unity among them.

Miscalculation and Unintended Consequences

The Dutch East Indies misjudged the social and psychological dynamics of the Dayak tribes. Their attempt to control the Dayak by creating dependency on salt backfired, uniting the tribes against a common enemy. A notable example of this is the role of Apang Semangai in Sintang, where the Dayak forces defeated the Dutch.

The pinnacle of this resistance was the Tumbang Anoi Meeting, which lasted three months from May to August 1894. Initially, this meeting was facilitated by the Dutch with malicious intent—to unite the Dayak tribes for easier domination. They provided logistical support and centralized their operations in Banjarmasin.

Read Damang Batu - Unifying Figure of the Dayak, Tumbang Anoi 1894

However, the outcome was the opposite. Instead of becoming a tool of control, this meeting became a rallying point for Dayak unity. The tribes realized that their greatest strength against colonization lay in their unity.

The Dutch East Indies' "salt starvation" strategy was a complete failure, inadvertently strengthening the unity among the Dayak tribes. This miscalculation is a classic example of unintended consequences in colonial history. 

The unified Dayak became more formidable in their resistance against the colonizers, especially when facing a common enemy.

This experience teaches us that a strategy successful in one context may not be effective in another. 

The power of unity in the face of external threats proved to be the key in the struggle against colonization, as demonstrated by the Dayak tribes.

- Rangkaya Bada

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