Nestled deep within the forests just a few hours’ drive from Indonesia’s bustling capital, an Indigenous tribe known as the Baduy has made headlines for their conspicuous absence from the country’s political campaigning ahead of the national elections.
The Baduy, numbering around 16,000 individuals, adhere staunchly to an ancient ancestral faith deeply rooted in reverence for spirits and the natural world. Their customs dictate a rejection of modern technology and other contemporary facets of life, maintaining a lifestyle that remains largely insulated from the outside world.
Within the tribe, there exists an inner circle revered for their purity, living in complete seclusion from external influences and sustaining themselves solely through nature. The outer circle, while permitting limited interaction with technology, visitors, and commerce, remains largely disconnected from mainstream Indonesian society.
As the nation gears up for Wednesday’s elections, election authorities find themselves grappling with the complex dynamics presented by the Baduy tribe’s unique position. Despite being eligible to vote, members of the outer circle possess minimal information to inform their electoral choices, with campaigning and political promotion strictly prohibited within their community.
Emen, a 43-year-old farmer from Kanekes village, emphasized the norm of political apathy within the Baduy community, stating that campaigning and endorsements are foreign concepts in their secluded world. Despite the impending elections, many Baduy members remain oblivious to candidates and electoral debates, relying solely on word-of-mouth for information.
Acknowledging the importance of exercising their democratic rights, some Baduy residents expressed a desire to cast informed votes, citing the necessity of electing capable leaders for the country’s security and well-being. With access to social media platforms like TikTok, a handful of tribe members have managed to glean fragmentary insights into the electoral process.
In Kanekes village, preparations are underway to accommodate over 6,000 Baduy voters across 27 polling stations, reflecting the tribe’s historically high voter turnout in previous elections. Ni’matullah, the head of the election commission in Lebak regency, highlighted the success of a recent vote simulation conducted in Kanekes, demonstrating the villagers’ understanding of electoral procedures.
Despite logistical challenges such as distributing ballot papers on foot due to inaccessible terrain, organizers remain committed to facilitating a smooth voting process for the Baduy community. As they prepare to exercise their democratic rights, tribe members like Emen underscore the paramount importance of protecting their ancestral lands and forests, even as they grapple with the weighty decision of casting their votes on election day.