His admirers, for reasons of politics or history, have sought to glorify the man, only to run into a massive chorus of disapproval.
History could be rewritten, said Prof Dr K.S. Nathan, director of the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies.
The policemen of the Bukit Kepong police station.
Nonetheless, the arguments and discussions would have to be presented in an objective manner and consensus reached based on comprehensive research.
"In certain contexts, if we promote history, we are promoting nationalism. Now, the role of academicians is to present all these different views and not to find out who did more or who did less, but to promote a healthy discussion," said Nathan.
To deepen the body of knowledge on Bukit Kepong, in the 1980s, historian Sahgidon Dirhan interviewed Sgt Bajuri Siraj, a former Batu Pahat district chief home guard, who was tasked with capturing Mat Indera.
"Admirers of Mat Indera insisted that the man, a former religious teacher, was a freedom fighter who went against the British rule over Malaya," said Sahgidon, when met over a cup of coffee at his home in Parit Selangor, Pontian, recently.
But the fact that it was Mat Indera who led the Bintang Tiga communist attack on the police station, after aligning himself with the same group of terrorists who had committed atrocities against the locals, does not justify his end, supposedly, to overthrow the colonialists.
The howls of derision seem to grow with more interviews.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Assoc Prof Mohammad Agus Yusoff, for instance, did not mince his words.
"Mat Indera was never manipulated or used as a communist pawn. He was there at Bukit Kepong to carry out his own agenda of hatred against the British administration through extreme retaliation."
Agus said Mat Indera arrived at a point where he would do anything to strike against the British.
"He was not a hero but a man who made an alliance with the communists to seek revenge against the British. He didn't look at himself as a communist, but what kind of a hero would he be if he was involved with terrorists?"
Ahmad Abu Bakar, a son of a home guard stationed in Bukit Kepong, was only three months old during the incident.
He said his father narrowly escaped death -- his superior told him to stay at home since there were already enough home guards on duty.
"How can people say Mat Indera is not a ruthless man? How can you attack people who were working honestly to earn a livelihood? Those who want to rewrite history and call communists national heroes can eat dirt," summed up the 63 year old.
He also revealed the reason behind the communist terrorists' attack, as told by his parents and relatives who had suffered under the communists.
Ahmad said before the attack took place, the communists were already there, in the jungles, for months.
"They were spreading fear among the locals through senseless killings. Earlier, before the siege on the police station, they held a gathering to disseminate their ideology to the Bukit Kepong villagers but it was rejected, much to the ire of the communist leaders present.
"The villagers, too, had laid traps and ambushes to kill the communists, even carrying out assassination attempts. Many communists terrorists were killed, since they had never expected villagers to take up arms against them."
Ahmad recounted a story during the month of Ramadan in 1949, when the communists attacked and wiped out a village some 10km away from Bukit Kepong, called Kampung Belatak, where between 10 and 15 families had lived.
"Houses were razed. Women and children were slaughtered. The communists even killed a mother who was breastfeeding her baby boy. The infant was shot dead as well.
"I knew the child's father. Despite remarrying several years later, his bouts with severe depression after the massacre of his family continued. I knew him as Mat Yassin. He died a troubled man."
Agus, on his part, cautioned that despite the countless studies by experts on the field, the results would always be heavily influenced by interpretations of researchers.
"This issue is being politicised and I don't think what has been written should be rewritten. If it has to be rewritten, leave it to the academicians. Mat Indera was as desperate as those who jump political parties when things are not in their favour."
Nathan said when it came to the country's history, and in light of recent press reports on the Bukit Kepong massacre and its main personalities, interpretation of facts must be done devoid of any political influence.
"What transpired recently is very unintellectual and a deterrent to critical thinking."
Source: The NST Home Local Article 2011/09/10