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30th anniversary of Hasta Mitra

30th anniversary of Hasta Mitra: a Story of Prohibition and Resistance during the New Order

[Translated by TAPOL]

The following note was received on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the publishing house, Hasta Mitra, drafted in preparation for a meeting to take place in Jakarta on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 when a documentary film by JAVIN will be shown.

The following people will speak at the meeting: Wilson, Hilmar Farid and the relatives of those who set up Hasta Mitra.

Brief note about Hasta Mitra:

In April thirty years ago, at a time when the New Order regime was reaching the zenith of its power, three former political priisoners, Joesoef Isak, Hasjim Rachman and Pramoedya Ananta Toer, decided to set up a publishing house called Hasta Mitra (Hand of Friendship). Refusing to be daunted by ghosts, they resolutely came forward, ignoring terror and the restrictions being imposed on any moves by former political prisoners to disseminate their thoughts as widely as possible.

The first step was the publication of the works of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the 'New Tetralogy', in which Hasta Mitra came forward with a version of history that was at variance with the official version regarding the trajectory taken by the nation, a new version for the younger generation who were deeply concerned about the fate of our country.

The blow struck by Hasta Mitra not only stirred the Indonesian literary world but also struck as the serenity of the New Order. Within a year of the appearance of Bumi Manusi - This Earth of Mankind - the book had broken all records, with 5,000 copies being sold in the first twelve days, leading the government, through the Attorney General to prohibit the distribution of the book on the grounds that it was deemed to disseminate communist teachings. Following the announcement of the prohibition, the three persons involved were summoned and interrogated.and copies of the book were seized. These repressive actions did not deter the three men, Joesoef, Hasyim and Pramoedya. They persisted with their work - Pramoedya as the novelist, Joesoef as the editor, and Hasyim as the businessman who brought together the financial means to produce the books.

As each of the four books appeared, they were one-by-one banned but the books continued to appear and to circulate like a guerilla movement, particularly among pro-democracy activists, intellectuals and cultural workers.

The seizures and other difficulties encountered in distributing the books and the guerilla methods used led to considerable financial losses but the determined efforts made by Joesoef Isak and Hasyim Rachman in using the little capital they were able to muster and produce more copies of the works made it possible for Hasta Mitra to establish itself as a publisher of excellence which persisted up until the time of their deaths.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the books published by Hasta Mitra were the most heavily banned by the Attorney General. The government regarded the continuance of the publication of these books as an inspiration and a source of new knowledge for activists and the pro-democracy movement. In those days, reading the books published by Hasta Mitra was seen as obligatory for anyone concerned about the fate of their nation and state. Arrests, trials and convictions of young people who dared to discuss the books and to circulate the the works of Pramoedya Ananta Toer helped to expose the narrow-minded attitude of the New Order regime towards the freedom of thought.

Joesoef Isak, Hasjim Rachman and Pramoedya Ananta Toer are no longer with us today but their determined efforts still live on in the books that continue to circulate, as a symbol of resistance to the regime that was so full of animosity towards the freedom of thought and freedom of opinion.


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