The train history in Indonesia has existed since 1860, started in the Dutch colonial period. Meanwhile on Wikipedia, it is mentioned that Rangkasbitung Station “was built in 1901. Now Rangkasbitung Station is a busy station in the area of Operational Region I Jakarta and also the only major station in Banten. In this station there is also the motive power depot that stores the carriages of Langsam, Rangkas Jaya, as well as Banten Express Train, and CC201 type locomotive which is brought in from Jatinegara and Tanah Abang railway depot. There was a railway track to Labuan through Pandeglang. This track also had a branch in Saketi towards Bayah. All trains from the freight train to passenger train stop at this station.”Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia, “Stasiun Rangkasbitung”. Accessed on July, 2015 For the history of railway construction project in Banten, with the exception of the road construction project done by Governor General Herman Willem Daendles, I have not been able to find the clear information of history of Staatsspoorween Bantam Lijn railway construction project or Trans-Bantenese Railways. Perhaps, it was because the train function in Banten then was just for transporting goods. It was different with the railways in Java which, besides used as the transportation of goods, was also a passenger transportation, so that the entire historical documentation record is very complete.
***The train bridge in Ciujung from the direction of Rangkasbitung Station which is now called Two Bridges becomes the heritage of glory days of the only railroad that stirred the people’s economy. Rangkasbitung in the past was an industrial and agricultural town that relied heavily on the smooth flow of train transport rotation. Results of plantation and agriculture were brought to Serang and Jakarta, only train that could control the economic activity in the past to be better. The train bridge and the railway junction to Bayah can still be found by us until now as the evidence, blending in with the residential area of the village. The Saketi – Bayah railroad track built by Japanese Government left us a heroic and bitter story to be remembered. That area was a pioneer of the surge of people’s uprising against the colonial government, inflicting thousands of casualties of local workers.
The Two Bridges and other bridges in Rangkasbitung usually still intersect in a small village road. In the new villages that grow just like that, there is always someone building a house. Generally, they are train workers who do not have official residence. The village road leads to the main road of Lebak Picung, while another road leads to Soekarno Hatta Street. The road is indeed narrow and is squeezed between the houses. There are many crossroads. The village roads in Lebak Sambel and surrounding areas develop like a giant maze. The citizens gather to form a group of ant colonies. The village children play every day while sitting on the rail, like swarms of ants that can crawl at night without seeing because they have known their way so well. They discuss anything while crossing the railway bridge. Actually, after crossing the bridge, there is a three-way road. The first road leads to Pandeglang, the second road to Soekarno Hatta and the third road to Lebak Sambel Village. This village is too harsh to be called a runaway village of a number of people from remote area of Lebak who do not have legitimate ownership papers. Settlements spread on the three roads. As far as I know, the village has been getting more populous since the 2000s until now. This place is a bit hidden and only serves as the crossing.
New groups of residents come and go. The shadows of houses that continue to grow keep moving, blending in with the railroad. It might seem that the government had a tendency to let the villages mushroomed between the bridges, but later they gave attention to the development plan of the river bank and urban planning. Especially when Rangkasbitung was used as economy administration point, because this town had already been designed by the colonial government to facilitate the transport of agricultural products from South Banten to Merak and Tanjung Priok Port. Bayah itself had been localized, in terms of crops, by the Dutch, because South Banten was fertile and rich in crops and spices. However, the Japanese came too soon and the Dutch project to build the Rangkasbitung – Bayah railroad was taken over. Because of the lack of experts and the train construction workers, the Japanese employed the natives. It was a forced labor which was better known as Romusha. The Japanese’s interest at that time was transporting the coal as an energy source of transportation and industry. Rangkasbitung Station was an important stopping point of Saketi – Bayah track before finally arriving in Jakarta. This railway line was very historical for Indonesia, especially for Banten, but now it does not work anymore. According to Gugun, my friend from Rangkasbitung who works at PT. KAI, Rangkasbitung – Bayah railway track is still under the study for reactivation. I have not crosschecked this information yet to the Operational Region 1 in Jakarta. If it is true, then the economy of Banten will get better, given the difficulty of traveling from one area to another in Lebak. And the next problem is that PT. KAI will relocate the residents that have mushroomed, starting from under the railway bridge to the railway junction towards Serang and Bayah.
***The system of urban settlements in Rangkasbitung is not in a very strict supervision by the Local Government City Planning Section. The settlements grow successfully under the bridges and on the bank of the river close to the center of the government. This is ironic, because Rangkasbitung is the capital of Lebak Regency. Ideally, the settlements can be well arranged.
Lebak Sambel residents have ‘free’ characteristic. My discussion friend, Badrul Munir, reckons, “When I was young, Lebak Sambel area was famous for its market thugs place, bookies and drug dealers. This village had the highest violence rate in Lebak Regency. Although, as far as I know, Lebak Sambel Village did not have the tradition of Jawara (one who excels in martial arts) or it was not part of the villages which built the Jawara tradition.”
In a separate place, an employee of Cijoro Administrative Village Office, Lebak, gives the information and confirmation that Lebak Sambel Village and other villages located on the bank of the river, particularly ones near the Two Bridges, are still in the assessment phase. The government has performed the preparation of the Urban Spatial Plan which is translated into the District and Strategic Urban Area Spatial Plan. Still in the planning described by the administrative village employee, the settlements in the northern part will be relocated into the green zone area, as a part of the center of Regency Government. Sustainably, the more orderly Administrative Village Spatial region will be built in RT (neighborhood group) and RW (community unit) of the new residential area. In 2017, the government will continue to implement the effective spatial planning activities in supporting the sustainable development of the downtown. This plan becomes the reference material for the new head of government in the preparation of development program for the achievement of public welfare. Until this year, the districts that have already had the spatial plan are only ten districts, including Cijoro Lebak Administrative Village.
When the sun was still high in the sky, I went to Lebak Sambel Village. I took shelter under a tamarind tree near a police station, facing the Two Bridges. At the end of the railway bridge from the direction of Serang, a group of children eagerly playing, hanging on the railway bridge. There was a strange feeling when I saw them. There was no fear and worry if the train came suddenly. When I was a kid, no one had dared to play on the train bridge and had only dared to cross it. The railroad blended in with the residential area. Half-bitterly and half-jokingly, I asked a pedicab driver who was near me and was polishing batu akik (popular slang for gemstones), “Where are their parents, Sir?” He simply replied that the sight was normal and there was nothing strange about it. I could only scratch my head, laughing. True, the pedicab driver’s answer had saved the face of the children’s parents up to a certain extent. I just thought, in this case, people of Lebak Sambel had not been able to clear their minds anymore about the playing area of their own children. To get the assurance that their children were safe while playing, the parents should supervise them in front of the Two Bridges so they did not fall into its deathtrap.
When the sun was going below the horizon, I continued to walk across the railway bridge which had length of approximately five hundred meters. I did not cross it alone. There were people who walked behind me, snaking through the gaping block of the railway bridge. Once in a while, my eyes saw the bottom of the bridge with a view of the turbid water of Ciujung River which flowed slowly. If I looked down too long, I instantly felt dizzy. The height of Two Bridges was approximately forty meters. It was quite scary for people who are afraid of height. The roofs of the settlements in Lebak Pasar are clearly visible from the bridge.
That afternoon, I walked over the railway bridge to follow Sapri, the guide to the house of Mr. Karna, the Head of RT of Lebak Sambel Village. His house and the railroad towards Serang were side by side. Lebak Pasar residential area was part of Cijoro Village of which most of the residents were street vendors. In Rangkasbitung, usually residential areas tended not to have a dominant distribution pattern, because it tended to be outside the complex of the center of the government. I had the first home video viewing experience at Lebak Sambel Village. During my childhood, this area was famous for its home videos. Mr. Madu, an owner of a home video in Lebak Sambel is gone. He used to play the Betamax videos of TV series. His house was also located next to the railroad.
When I arrived at the end of the bridge, I went down, entering the narrow street of the dense settlements that spread to the end of the railroad which was a former track to Bayah. The streets in Lebak Sambal Village were only fit for one person, making me as if I entered a maze. I talked casually about the history of Lebak Sambel Village with Mr. Karna. Then he told me that in the past, in the area of the railway junction to under the bridge there were only a few buildings. Residents’ houses can be counted with fingers. Their owners were almost most people who worked in the railroad company. Who did care about the people who built new houses here? Did the local government think about it? Did PT. KAI plan to relocate this village to be made as a railroad junction to Bayah? Everything was not clear.
“Often there were people who took pictures of this village, they said they were testing this and that, I did not care anymore,” he said. “Once Lebak Sambel Village was filled with homes, many people who were forced to think about their living first instead of to think about whether they could build houses or not. Here, the people had pride too, sir.”
When asked about the name of Lebak Sambel Village, Mr. Karna admitted that he did not know. According to him, the name had already been used since a long time ago. This village had four RTs. In one RT, there were 40, 75 to 80 head of families (KK). In the most populous RT, in one house two, three or four families could live together. Mr. Karna also told me about his youth when he had often been involved in community service in remote villages in Lebak, helping the army to open new roads. Mr. Karna had already lived for 30 years in Lebak Sambel Village. He remembered that above his house in the past, near the railroad, there was a railroad crossing controller post. He also said, according to his brother who was an employee of PT KAI, the track to Labuan would be reopened because Bayah was rich in coal and there was a cement factory there.
Swarm of black flies spread like wasps in Mr. Karna’s simple and small living room. Some of them dived and disappeared into my coffee cup. His information about Lebak Sambel Village, finally, reached the notepaper. Mr. Karna explained that he had been serving as the Head of RT for 30 years. In every election, he was always elected, even though he had already refused because he was too old and had already been very bored. His friend, a fellow Head of RT of Lebak Picung Village, who was in the same generation as him, was gone. It made sense, Mr. Karna was more than 70 years old now, his wife had already died. Both of them had died here, in Lebak Sambel. “Now it’s been four years since I lost my wife. Our house was sold and I finally stay with my children here,” said Mr. Karna.
I felt fortunate to meet with Mr. Karna who was also familiar with the video rental owner. When I asked Mr. Karna to take me to his house, he did not want to. He could only give the story that the owner of the video rental had been a native of Lebak Sambel Village. Usually, after coming home from trading at the market, he had played adult video for people. Children in Lebak Sambel had often watched and not infrequently he had driven them out of his house because his video had been for adults. But sometimes those children had just been accepted, including me. Since then, that place had been famous as a place to watch adult videos in the 1980s. Now, there was not a house to watch video anymore but there was a video game rental place instead.∎
Footnote [ + ]
|1.||⇑||Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia, “Stasiun Rangkasbitung”. Accessed on July, 2015|