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The Mandailings in their own terms






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The Mandailings in their own terms

Abdoellah Loebis, one of the foremost Mandailing scholars in the first quarter of the 20th century, stated unequivocally that the Mandailing are not Batak in an article he wrote for the newspaper Mandailing in the 1920s.

Abdoellah Loebis

He argued at length using ethnological, anthropological and historical arguments that the Mandailing and Batak are distinct ethnic groups.

Abdoellah Loebis attributed political and religious motives behind attempts by Christian missionaries (Zendeling) to define Mandailings are Batak He said Europeans were in no position to tell whether the Mandailings are Batak (Zendeling refers to Christian Proselytism. The Christian missionaries had successfully converted some Mandailing in Pakatan in Upper Mandailing into Christians and until today churches can still be found in that area. The Christian missionaries are still having their eyes on the Mandailing. See Joshua Project 2000 - unreached People Profile at http://www.ad2000.org)

He said it was the Malays who coin the term Batak to refer to the people who worship the trinity gods, "Debata jang beratak-atak." Abdoellah Loebis argued that the forefathers of the Mandailing rajas "never worshiped the gpds of the Batak in Bakkara," adding that the practice did not come to Mandailing.

He noted that because of the similarities in the clan system and language shared by the Mandailing and the Batak, Europeans observers were quick to equate the former with the latter and arrived at the finding that they were of the same stock. Nevertheless, these very same observers cannot be certain that the Mandailing are of the Batak stock.

Abdoellah Loebis was of the view that the Mandailing was first populated before the Toba lands and the 'Hindus' first came to Mandailing. Conversely, he concluded that the clan system was first introduced by the 'Hindus' into Mandailing. (A Dutch report named the Lubu as the first people to settle in Mandailing.) Abdoellah Loebis differentiated the "Hindus" who came to Mandailing compared to those who came to Toba, Karo and Pak-Pak.

Only after the 'Hindus' left, did Namora Pande Bosi, the progenitor of the Lubis clan and Sibaroar, the progenitor of the Nasution clan, came to Mandailing. This essentially marks the beginning of the Mandailing people in the Mandailing homeland. Going by the genealogies and assuming that there were no discrepancies in them, the Lubis clan came to Mandailing Julu (Upper Mandailing) in the 16th century (Tugby)

Abdoellah Loebis's thesis and that of Radja Moelia, which appeared in the newspaper called "Tapian Na Oeli" are contained in a book entitled "Asal Oesoelnja Bangsa Mandailing" (The origin of the Mandailing Nation) compiled by Mangaradja Ihoetan, the editor of Pewarta Deli and published in Medan in 1926. It was intended as a reminder for the future generations of Mandailing.

In Mangaradja Ihoetan's preface he stated that the compilation was done so that the descendants of the Mandailings would know the great pains their forefathers went through to defend their ethnic and cultural identity. "In this way, it is hoped that they would never consider forsaking their nationhood carelessly and obliterate it by entering into the fold of another ethnic that does not elevate their status."

In his own words: …"hanjalah kadar dijadi peringatan di-belakang hari kepada toeroen - toeroenan bangsa Mandailing itoe, soepaya mereka tahoe bagaimana dijerih pajah bapa-bapa serta nenek mojangnja mempertahankan atas berdirinja kebangsaan mereka itoe. Dengan dijalan begitoe diharap tiadalah kiranja mereka itoe akan sia-siakan lagi kebangsaannja dengan moedah maoe mehapoeskannja dengan dijalan memasoekkan diri pada bangsa lain jang tidak melebihkan martabatnja."

The compilation covered the event that took place between 1922 - 1926, that involves a court battle between Mandailings and Muslims claiming themselves to be Batak over who had the right to be buried in the Mandailing waqf (trust land) burial ground in Sungai Mati, Medan. The Mandailing argued before the Madjelis Sjara'iah (Islamic Law Council) established by the Sultan of Deli that only Mandailings have the right to be buried in the waqf burial ground. Therefore Bataks as well as Mandailings claiming to be Batak, have no right whatsoever to be buried there. The Islamic Shariah Council ruled in favour of the Mandailing. This was upheld by the Raad Van Justitie and in the process affirming the Mandailing's distinct ethnic and cultural identity from the Batak.

The court case was recorded in the newspapers of the day such as Mandailing, Pewarta Deli, Sumatra Post, etc., and was afterwards compiled by Mangaradja ihoetan, the editor of Pewarta Deli. As a result of this dispute, the line was drawn between the Mandailings and the Batak groups, and the ethnic and cultural identity of the Mandailing was defined as distinct from that of the Batak During the episode, the Mandailing deliberated intensely over their cultural identity and the definition arrived at in his case colours the social memory of the Mandailing to this day.

It was during the height of this episode that a Mandailing delegation was sent from Medan to Tapanuli and Malaya to canvas for the views of Mandailings in the homeland as well as 'overseas' Mandailings (Mandailing living in the rantau) on the matter. A Mandailing association was also formed in Batavia.

When the 1930 census approached in the 'Netherlands East Indies', the 'Comite Kebangsaan Mandailing' (Mandailing National Committee) based in Panyabungan, Mandailing, petitioned, with some success, not to be listed as MandailingBatak in the census results. Though the term "Mandailing-Batak" was not used, the "Mandailingers" were still listed under as one of the "Bataks" subgroup in the census.

Unlike in Indonesia, The Mandailings in British Malaya did not pose any resistance to colonial attempts at labelling them as Malays in the census and for "administrative convenience." Indeed it was for "administrative convenience" that the Mandailings were defined as Bataks in the Dutch east Indies and as Malays in British Malaya.

Subsequently in the name of Malay nationalism (bangsa Melayu) of an imagined people, national education and the print media, the Mandailings in Malaysia have all but lost their cultural and ethnic identity.

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update september 2004