With memories still fresh of the burning of Shia homes on Madura Island nine months ago, villagers have been forced to flee again after communal unrest erupted again Sunday (August 26th).
No one has been apprehended in the December 2011 torching of a mosque, a school and several Shia Muslim homes in Karanggayam village in Madura's Sampang Regency. But in July, a Sampang court sentenced a local Shia Muslim leader, Tajul Muluk, to two years in jail for blasphemy.
Now Shia Muslims in Karanggayam have once again fled their homes after bloody sectarian unrest that left two people dead.
The incident began as Shia students were returning to school after the Idul Fitri holiday, Brigadier General Anang Iskandar, a spokesman for the Indonesian National Police, told Khabar Southeast Asia.
"It started when about 20 students, Shia Muslims from Karanggayam in Omben sub-district, wanted to return to school in East Java after going home for Lebaran. But they were intercepted by about 30 Sunni Muslims on motorcycles, who forced them to go to back to their homes," he said.
"The students who had already gotten onto public transportation were told to get off, and weren't allowed to get into any kind of vehicle," he said.
"Then, a mob of about 100 Sunni Muslims told the students' parents who were trying to escort their children onto public transport, to go back to their respective houses. Tempers flared over resistance from the Shia group, so a big fight broke out that drew in even more people," he said.
A fishing bomb (bondet) then exploded in a yard, injuring several Sunnis and provoking retaliation from hundreds of others in the area.
Two Shia Muslims were killed in the incident, named as Muhammad Kosim, or Hamamah, and Tohir. Dozens of people were injured, and 37 Shia houses were burned to the ground. A police officer from Omben station, Aris Dwi, 44, was struck on the head by a rock.
The location of the incident was remote, about 25km from the city of Sampang and it was difficult for police and firemen to reach. Fire broke out in some 20 locations.
"This isn't at the side of the main road, as many people imagine. Foreign television stations make it look as if we just let it happen. But this location is really far and certainly not easily reached by a fire truck," Minister of Home Affairs Gamawan Fauzi told reporters at the Grahadi Building in Surabaya on Monday, August 27th.
"It's a tough area, and [obtaining] water is also difficult. These conditions aren't understood by the media," he said.
"We are still afraid"
Now, 212 displaced Shia Muslims – most of them women, children and elderly people – are being temporarily housed in an indoor tennis building on Agus Salim Street, in Sampang, under the care of the government of Sampang Regency.
"The most important priority is to provide humanitarian care to the victims and a reasonable place to stay," East Java Governor Soekarwo told journalists in Surabaya Monday (August 27th).
Asked about plans following the evacuation, Soekarwo answered: "We don't know yet the next steps. But in principle, there will be decisive legal action regarding this event, to reinforce democracy in Indonesia."
"The establishment of democracy must be synchronised with law. Thus, the perpetrators must be dealt with based on the procedures," he said.
Meanwhile, in order to ensure their safety, the Shia Muslims housed in the tennis building have been forbidden to leave it. The government is providing for their daily needs and has set up a public kitchen.
The refugees themselves are fearful.
Muniroh, 45, is a mother of two who asked that her real name not be used.
"We are still afraid that we will be attacked again. We don't have anything. All of our property was completely burned. The important thing is, we survived. We're thankful for the food, clothes, and medicine from the government and volunteers," she told Khabar.
She refused to offer any further comments about the incident.
"I'm sorry, I can't say anything more, because I'm afraid of rumours being spread by people. We are afraid it will affect our safety," she said.
Zaenal Arifin, 43, a relative of some of the displaced people in the building, also showed his apprehension.
"I came here to see my brother-in-law and and my nephew. What a pity this has happened to them. I do not know why they were attacked. This conflict must be resolved by the government as soon as possible," he told Khabar, with frustration in his voice.