Indonesia’s isolated Baduy community asks government to bar tourists from their territory

Baduy elders signing the official letter, which is addressed to the central and regional governments, including President Joko Widodo. The letter called on the officials to remove their territory from Indonesia’s list of tourist destinations. Photo: Istimewa
Baduy elders signing the official letter, which is addressed to the central and regional governments, including President Joko Widodo. The letter called on the officials to remove their territory from Indonesia’s list of tourist destinations. Photo: Istimewa

The Baduy, a Sundanese ethnic group living in Banten’s Lebak regency, is calling on Indonesian officials, including President Joko Widodo, to remove their territory from Indonesia’s list of tourist destinations. 

The Baduy community, who refer to themselves as Urang Kanekes (Kanekes people) after their territory, conveyed the request in an official letter addressed to the central and regional governments this week.

Heru Nugroho ⁠— who heads a team of four men appointed to represent a collective named the Baduy Customary Institution ⁠— said discussions on the issue first arose in April, with community elders complaining about being “overwhelmed” by tourist visits.

“At that time, we agreed that Baduy territory should be removed from the national tourism map,” Heru said.

A community elder told Heru tourists have created new problems in their territory, such as littering and the isolated people from Baduy Dalam (Inner Baduy) areas being exposed to the outside world as their photos have found their way to the internet.

“The stream of tourists with unclear purposes, [they only came to] watch the Baduy people, it actually made them uneasy. Not to mention the litter problem and others,” Heru said.

The Baduy community is divided into two sub-groups, the Baduy Luar (Outer Baduy) and Baduy Dalam ⁠— the latter being more strict in following Baduy customs, such as isolation from the outside world and the prohibition of footwear and using electricity. Visitors are prohibited from taking their photos.

The Baduy Luar people are still able to foster limited contact with the outside world and use technology or modern household equipment.

Lebak regent Iti Octavia said yesterday she was previously unaware of the issue and had only found out about it through social media. However, she said that she is open to having discussions with Pu’un, the highest leader of the Baduy community. 

“Basically, we agree with Pu’un’s complaint because the Baduy’s environment is polluted with litter from the visitors, but we will discuss the matter with the Pu’un first,” Iti said.

But it doesn’t seem like all the elders of the Baduy community are in agreement with barring their territory from tourists. At least one village chief has said that he was not notified about the letter to the government until after it was sent.

The Baduy territory is currently closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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