Stoping Caeseless Eviction in Our Cities

By: Muhammad Azka Gulsyan

Only in last three month, there were a lot of evictions conflict in our capital city: cases of Bukit Duri, Duren Sawit, Cempaka Putih, Gunung Sahari, Bidara Cina, and so on. There were also similar other conflicts in other major cities in Indonesia.

We always hear a lot of evicition conflict in the news over and over, like it was a usual thing to happen. This occurence must be stopped someway. Therefore we need to see it clearly from a root of problem.

The reality behind eviciton actually the existance of a struggle in seizing city spaces. It is a term which thought out by Basundono (2013) in his research about this struggle in history of Surabaya, and several major cities in Indonesia in more general.

In his historical analysis, he found that actually this struggle were happened in those city since the population start raised in rapid speed and make development uncontrollable, and at the same time there were no any adequate policy to manage the distribution of spaces. It make people had to compete each other to get the spaces which were actually needed by all of them.

In a more theoretical explanation, urban anthropologist Prins and Nas (1983) found that in major cities in third world country, including Jakarta, this struggle is really happening in day-to-day life since every social relation must be built upon spatial and environmental structure. Therefore, the growth of population makes the interest which cross upon the city spaces terrace and generating conflict and high tension condition in the cities.

Therefore, from the perspective of social class, we could see that there would be two classes because of this: the winner and loser of struggle for city spaces.

If we are usual to shopping in big mall, work in skyscraper in the downtown, living in luxurious apartment, using flawless toll road; maybe we are the winner. And maybe we never think that all of those beautiful buildings or other spaces that we use every day actually required many other people to move away from those spaces before in the struggle.

So let we think for a while, for example, before our apartment has been built, who were the people who lived there? Where are they now? And why should they move away?

It is not hard to answer: they are the loser class in this struggle who have to go away since they lose in this competition over city spaces. Where are they now? Slums dweller in the riverbank, in sidewalk, or railway side; street vendors, ojek riders’ base, transient vendors, and many more; here they are.

Eviction are not final solution

Nevertheless, the unconsciousness about this struggle make the commonsense in people see this loser group only from another opposite side, that they are problems of city.

We cannot deny the problems which are caused by them: environmental degradation, ruining the beauty of city, causing traffic, occupying sidewalk, and so on. Therefore people think that they should be “cleaned” in order to make better city and government do the action by eviction, many of them by violence forces.

However, to see it more clearly, the reason they occupy those improper locations are not simply because their own decision to break the city rule, but because of the structural condition in the distribution of city spaces like I have said before.

It is a dilemma for every city governments. They have to stand order and clean the city, but it force them have to do the eviction.

Therefore this problem never be solved until the equilibrium of spaces distribution is reached, where every people get their spaces for each persons need (Basundono, 2013). As long as this equilibrium is not reached, where there are still people who do not get adequate spaces in the city for their live, they will come back to occupy the all free accessible spaces even though in improper area. The question is, how?

Finding way out

The equilibrium are not reaches because in most cities, they give that distribution process entirely to the market mechanism, and make the citizen which without capital capacity cannot able to get adequate spaces and finally become city problems. It is a wrong paradigm since city spaces are a need for every citizen, from every groups or classes, so government have obligation to regulate it as mandated in constitution.

We need to learn from many developed cities in the world. There are two things that are neglected by most of Indonesian cities and so it must be done to solve those problems.

The first is collaborative city planning process. City needs to have a planning, and most of Indonesian cities have their city planning. But rare of them making those planning by collaborative process which meet all interest in the citizen, from rich private sector to poor community, and make a consensus in the city plan. Collaborative need to be built since once it’s achieve, the interest of that loser group will be accommodate as same as the more powerful groups, and it’s implementation will follow relative easily without any struggle (Healey, 2006), so it will be a first step to  a fair distribution of spaces.

Second, once a consensus city has been built, land use and development control must follow to make sure the realization. It is actually a classic law enforcement problems in our country, but since it is a city issue which is close to people actual live, public actually can do control more participatory to their city government. So it needs to start from giving more attention about land use and development control in the cities.

Those two steps will bring us to a more sustainable phase of Indonesian cities, the cities which are free from people who occupy the improper spaces and causing city problems, but also free from any conflict of spaces, especially tiring conflict of eviction. Let’s stop these caeseless evictions in our cities.


Tokyo, January 25th 2016

Muhammad Azka Gulsyan

Alumni of Urban and Regional Planning, Institute of Technology Bandung


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