JAKARTA - An anti-communist rally in Jakarta on Friday (Sept 29) attracted just about 1,500 people, with the crowd dwarfed by the 20,000 personnel deployed by the government amid fears that the protest could turn unruly.
The turnout was small by Indonesian standards and far lower than expected, with the hardline Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) being the largest group in the crowd.
The protesters voiced their concern that communist ideology, which in the 1960s had massive support and was under the auspices of the then Indonesia Communist Party (PKI), was being revived.
"Very sad. There are even MPs who are proud that they are the children of PKI parents," one protest leader shouted. "Those who support PKI are enemies of Islam."
Some protesters shouted, "Khilafah, khilafah, khilafah", the Indonesian word for "caliphate".
The protesters earlier did Friday noon prayers outside Parliament's main gate.
The protest came on the 52nd anniversary of the murder of six army generals and a young lieutenant by rebel armed forces personnel during an abortive coup against then President Sukarno, an incident that led to a retaliatory pogrom that killed at least 500,000 alleged communists.
A resurgence of anti-communist sentiments in Indonesia has stoked fears that sinister forces behind religion-and race-based attacks in domestic politics recently are moving to play the commie card against their rivals in upcoming elections.
These include the propagation of rumours and fake news that a revival of the long-defunct Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) is not only imminent, but is also secretly backed by reformist leaders or groups.
President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has been a prime target of such smear campaigns, which observers say can be traced back to Cold War-era McCarthyism.
Although the PKI was disbanded in 1966, Islamic nationalists in Indonesia continue to carry a strong sense of paranoia and suspicion towards communism.