Ramadan crackdown on Jakarta's rock 'n' roll beggars


A home-bound Indonesian youth plays the guitar while waiting along with others for their train at a railway station in Jakarta, 31 October 2005, to join families for the upcoming Eid-al-Fitr festival. Millions of Indonesians are expected to travel home back to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of the Muslim's holy fasting month of Ramadan.



Each night, poor Indonesian kids ply the streets with guitars and change cups in hopes of making $10 before they tire out.

They constitute a "powerful Jakarta sub-culture" called "pengamen" comprised of "bona fide homeless street kids who literally sing for their supper," according to Daniel Ziv, author of Jakarta Inside Out.

But Indonesian authorities say that they've got to scram during Ramadan, practiced widely in Muslim-majority Indonesia. According to the Jakarta Globe, police are preparing a crackdown to rid the streets of the homeless rocker pengamen.

In the eyes of officials, the boys are predators who take advantage of worshippers' pious state of mind and tendency to give out change.

Police have attempted sweeps against the beggar youth before but have continually failed. A 2009 New York Times piece on a similar crackdown notes that the giver of coins -- not just the singing recipient -- can catch a $2,000 fine and jail time. But this is seldom, if ever, enforced.

As long as Jakarta continues to suffer epic traffic jams, which leave well-to-do drivers stuck in place, there will be pengaman banging out Bon Jovi songs outside their window for a few coins.