Tue, 06 Mar 2001

People jostle over meat at Istiqlal Grand Mosque

JAKARTA (JP): The Day of Sacrifice, meant to be a show of compassion and brotherhood, turned into a stampede on Monday as around 2,000 poor people fought for slices of meat at the Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta.

While there were no fatalities, several people received minor injuries during the stampede.

The chaos meant that many people who had lined up for the free meat to take home to their families went away with nothing. Others took advantage of the furor to help themselves to as much meat as they could carry.

"I got this much, not bad... I will sell some of this," one man told Antara as he left the mosque.

The man was only wearing an undershirt because he had taken off his T-shirt to wrap up about seven kilograms of meat.

A kilogram of beef costs almost Rp 30,000, which is unaffordable for low-income people in the city, where the minimum monthly wage is only slightly more than Rp 400,000.

Some people who did not receive any of the free meat became irate and destroyed the tables on which the meat was kept.

The incident occurred because people were afraid they would not receive any meat. The number of cows and goats meant for sacrifice was only half of last year's number, while there were more people waiting in line to receive the meat.

This year, the mosque slaughtered seven cows and 10 goats. Among the cows were those contributed by President Abdurrahman Wahid, Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Religious Affairs Tolchah Hassan.

Only three of the seven cows were slaughtered on Monday. The other four are scheduled to be slaughtered on Tuesday, with the meat being distributed to orphanages, charities and foundations.

Twelve cows and 25 goats were slaughtered at the mosque last year.

As soon as the Day of Sacrifice prayer ended at about 8 a.m., hundreds of poor people flocked to the mosque to receive the free meat.

Those hoping to receive the meat first had to get a coupon, which they could then exchange for a kilogram of meat.

The cows were slaughtered on the grounds of the mosque, with the meat being put into plastic bags which were to be then handed out to those in line.

But as more and more people arrived, the situation became chaotic. Some of the people in the crowd began to shout at security guards, and then people began to shove each other.

The crowd grew impatient as they waited for the butchers to finish slaughtering the cows and goats.

As people began to push against the iron fence separating them from the slaughter yard, several police officers appealed for calm, but it was to no avail. The people rushed into the slaughter yard and took whatever they could.

Several people were injured in the melee. "I am concerned with what happened to those people. Yes, the meat is their right, but we did not like what they did," said one mosque official.

When the situation was again under control, the third cow was slaughtered.

Eleven butchers were hired by the mosque. They were paid Rp 90,000 for each cow they slaughtered, and Rp 8,000 for each goat.

Atho Mudzhar, the rector of Yogyakarta's Sunan Kalijaga Institute of Islamic Studies, said earlier in his sermon at the mosque that poverty was the main enemy of the Indonesian nation. (jun/sim)