The Rocky Road To Independence – The Japanese Occupation

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There was a king of 12th Century Java, Jayabaya by name

Who had prophesied that despotic white men would one day rule but that following the arrival of yellow men from the north (who would remain just as long as it takes the maize to ripen), Java would be freed forever of foreign oppressors and would enter a millennial golden age. When the Japanese invasion came, it is not surprising that many Indonesians interpreted this a liberation from Dutch rule.

The immediate effect of the Japanese invasion of Java in January, 1942 was to show that Dutch military might was basically a bluff. The Japanese encountered little resistance and within just a few weeks they rounded up all Europeans and placed them in concentration camps. Initially there was jubilation, but it immediately became apparent that the Japanese had come to exploit the Indies not to free them.

Throughout the occupation all imports were cut off and Japanese rice requisition steadily increased, creating famines and sparking peasant uprisings which were them ruthlessly put down by the dreaded Kempeitai or Japanese secret police.

Still, the Japanese found it necessary to rely on Indonesians and to promote a sense of Indonesian nationhood in order to extract their desired war material Indonesian were placed in many key positions previously held by Dutchmen. The use of the Dutch language was banned and replaced by Indonesian. And nationalist leaders were freed and encouraged to cooperate with the Japanese, which almost of them did. All these factors contributed to growing sense of Indonesian confidence.

When it eventually became apparent, in late 1944 that Japan was losing the war, the Japanese began to promise independence in an attempt to maintain faltering Indonesian support. Nationalist slogans were encouraged, the nationalist anthem (Indonesia Raya) was played, the Indonesian “Red and White”flew next to the “Rising Sun,” Indonesian leaders were brought together for discussions and close to 200,000 young people were hurriedly mobilized into para-military groups. By this point there was clearly no chance of turning back.

–> Read Also : The Rocky Road To Inedependence – Revolution – 1945-1950

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