The Idul Fitri celebrations (also known as Lebaran) in Indonesia appear to take place in a safe and orderly manner. Idul Fitri is an important religious holiday for Muslims as it stresses the importance of unity for the Islamic community, and marks the end of the holy fasting month (Ramadan). Business comes to a near stand-still in Indonesia during these days, and Jakarta, the political and economic center of Indonesia, has become empty after millions of people went back to their hometowns ahead of Idul Fitri (this is known as the annual mudik tradition).
The term mudik refers to the exodus of millions of Indonesians from the larger cities (particularly Jakarta) back to their hometowns in the regions to celebrate Idul Fitri with their families (in fact also non-Muslims follow this tradition). Traditionally, people start to mudik three or four days ahead of Idul Fitri (Idul Fitri was on 28 July 2014) and always causes severe traffic jams around Jakarta due to the country’s notorious lack of quality and quantity of infrastructure. Last week, the Ministry of Transportation predicted that approximately 27.9 million Indonesians have conducted the mudik (mostly traveling from cities on Java to the villages in Central and East Java).
However, the annual mudik tradition is not without risks. Every year, the exodus from the larger Indonesian cities results in casualties and injured people. On a positive note, the number of casualties during this year’s mudik is less compared to last year’s figure. According to data from the National Police, 232 people died during the 2013 mudik. This year, however, ‘only’ 163 people were reported to have passed away, either because of accidents (especially motorcyclists and passengers) or fatigue. Another 270 people have been injured in this year’s mudik. According to the Indonesian police, the decline in casualties is particularly caused by improved safety awareness of motorcyclists as these have lowered the number of passengers and luggage caried on their motorcycles.
It is also interesting to note that the Indonesian government gave sentence reductions to more than 57,000 Muslim prisoners; another tradition amid Idul Fitri (but also a strategy to reduce overcrowded prison facilities). For hundreds of prisoners across the archipelago it meant they were free to go. According to Justice and Human Rights Ministry spokesman Akbar Hadi, a total of 165,731 Indonesian prisoners currently live in 463 detention centers and prisons in Indonesia. However, these facilities were designed to house 109,231 prisoners, implying overcapacity of 152 percent.