Tongam Panggabean was born and grew up in Pansurnapitu, a small village in the North Tapanuli district, Indonesia. The district is also locally well-known as Rura Silindung or the Silindung Valley, where the Protestant church was found in the mid 19th century. There, he observed and experienced first hand the effects and human rights issues of development projects and policies.
Since 2011, he joins The Institute for Legal Consultation and People Advocacy of Sumatera Utara (BAKUMSU) whose focuses are on strengthening democracy through the rule of law and respect for human rights. His responsibilities are in area of research, network and publication.
Tongam Panggabean began his Master in Human Rights at University of Friedrich Alexander Erlangen-Nurnberg (FAU) Germany in October 2018. While his BA was in History from University of Sumatera Utara (USU) in Medan in 2009.