Criminalisation of Tongkunisolu Indigenous People in North Sumatra in Land Conflict with PT Toba Pulp Lestari

PT Toba Pulp Lestari Tbk (PT TPL) criminalised 59-year-old Dirman Rajagukguk, a farmer and member of the Tongkunisolu indigenous community in West Parsoburan Village, Habinsaran District, Toba Regency, North Sumatra Province. PT TPL reported Dirman to the Porsea Sector Police in August 2022. PT TPL accused Dirman of destroying 69 hectares of the company’s industrial plantation forest by planting yams, and corn and building a house. The police followed up on PT TPL’s report and ignored the fact that Dirman is an indigenous person whose land rights are protected by the constitution and the law.  

Dirman is illiterate and unable to read and write. The police are conducting legal proceedings against him through means that are not in line with legal procedures. Neither the police nor the prosecutor’s office has legally summoned Dirman. On 16 August 2022, Dirman and the village head, together with members of the Village Consultative Body (BPD), went to the Porsea Sector Police to fulfil a summons from the police. Before they arrived, the police called the village head and instructed him to take Dirman directly to the Balige District Attorney’s Office, while the summons for him was only to fulfil the Porsea Police summons. Once there, the Prosecutor’s Office immediately detained Dirman in the Balige jailhouse. 

Neither the police nor the Balige District Prosecutor’s Office informed the family about Dirman’s detention. They prohibited the family from visiting Dirman, citing COVID rules that demand that unvaccinated persons have to be quarantined for 14 days. The family has yet to receive information from the police and prosecutors regarding the trial schedule. On 19 August 2022 afternoon, Dirman called the family and informed them that he would have his first trial that afternoon. The family was unable to attend the trial on such short notice because of the two-hour journey from the village to the district courthouse. During the trial, the police also restricted the public from entering the courtroom, even though this was a public trial and the indigenous people of Tongkunisolu wanted to monitor the trial and support Dirman.  

On 6 October 2022, the Balige District Court sentenced Dirman to three years in prison and a fine of 1.5 million rupiahs. The judges stated that the defendant was found guilty of committing a criminal offence by intentionally carrying out plantation activities without a ministerial permit in a forest area. The fact that he is a member of the indigenous population was not considered. Dirman filed an appeal on 26 October 2022 and is awaiting the appeal decision of the Medan High Court. 


PT TPL first came in 1992 under the name PT Indorayon Utama. It obtained forest concession rights through the Decree of the Indonesian Minister of Forestry Number 493 / Kpts-II / 92 dated 1 June 1992. The central government had stopped the operational activities on 19 March 1999 but reissued an operating permit on 11 May 2001 when the company changed its name to PT TPL Tbk. According to the latest decision letter amendment in 2020, PT TPL has an area of 167,912 hectares, of which 770 hectares are owned, by customary right, by the Rajagukguk Clan in Tungkonisolu Village. 

Since 1992, there have been conflicts between the company and the Tongkunisolu indigenous community. When the community tried to defend their rights to customary land, their members were criminalised, the latest case being that of Dirman Rajagukguk. The claim of the Rajaguguk clan to 770 hectares of land in Tungkonisolu dates back to the time of the Dutch East Indies administration in the 18th century. Dirman Rajaguguk is the ninth generation of the Raja Gukguk clan to live on the land.  

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Tungkonisolu Land (2.2967846228558764, 99.23628421416882)
administrative region: Indonesia, North Sumatra Province, Toba Regency, Habinsaran District, West Parsoburan Village 
total number of victims: 1
period of incident: 16.08.2022
perpetrator: police, company
perpetrator details: Porsea sector police, TP TPL
Issues: criminalisation, cultural rights, right to food, indigenous, arbitrary detention
Sources:,, Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolation
1Dirman Rajagukgukmale59indigenouscultural rights, food, arbitrary detention