Processes, Rights & Trees Bulldozed

 

This website aims to contribute to the community-aligned campaign – Stand for Auroville Unity – and provides resources to help people understand the current conflict around urban development in Auroville.

Stay order extended till January 3rd, 2022

Sign the petition

Our mission was born in the Kalabhumi meeting (5 December), where at least 500 people signed a statement calling for peaceful, collective solutions to the conflict, and has since snowballed to become a campaign with wide community and global support. We aim to provide information in the most factual possible way.

Timeline of events

Most recent updates, for a complete timeline, visit the timeline page.

A list of acronyms is provided at the bottom.

 

Past events that lead to where we are today.

January 19th, 2022

These past few days, several Aurovilians have received a visit from the Pondicherry RRO. The immigration officers indicated that the RRO has received a list of names of foreigners on an Auroville visa who allegedly participated in “violent protests against the Crown Road.” During these visits, Aurovilians have had the opportunity to explain that the so…

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January 18th, 2022

January 18th, 2022

The change.org petition has reached the 50 000 signatures. Meanwhile the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation meets again in Auroville with no interaction with the Residents of Auroville. The residents have been informed the day before of the meeting of its happening and were told that they would not be able to interact with the Governing Board as it usually happens.

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January 16th, 2022

January 16th, 2022

The AVI Board (Auroville international) adresses a letter to the Secretary and the Governing Board to express their concern on the form that Aurovilians are forced to sign to obtain their recommendation letter for their visa extension from the Secretary. AVI Board letter 160122 to GB & AVF_Final

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January 7th, 2022

January 7th, 2022

The Resident Service in charge of maintaining the Master list of children and adult Aurovilians as well as New comers. They help and coordinate concerning visa renewal and residential permit related works.  They were informed by several Aurovilians of foreign origins that they have been asked by the Secretary of Auroville Foundation’s office to sign a letter in order to receive their letter of recommendation to obtain the extension of their visa. This is a completely newly introduced step. The point 4 is going against the very aims and ideals of Auroville. Out of 3312 individuals in Auroville (Adults and children), 1893 are concerned by visas. Visa threats Jan…

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January 4th, 2022

The hearing at the Court continues, next one will be on Monday, January 10th 2022. The status quo order continues. Meanwhile the sessions for a collaborative and participatory planning organized by the citizen assembly are taking place with the participation of Shilpa Vastu Foundation  

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January 2nd 2022

January 2nd 2022

Second meeting of the Residents’ Assembly to organise a RAD to pause the development till a decision is made by the community. The question for the RAD adopted by the majority of the members of the RA is: To pause all clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work on the Right of Ways of Crown, Radials and Outer Ring in order to enable the community to define a way forward for Auroville’s development, following: collective processes, the ‘Master Plan: Perspective 2025’ framework, and other relevant regulations. The outcome shall be approved through a ratified Residents’ Assembly Decision-making process, before the above specified clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work resumes. Presentation on Feedback on RAD Proposal Mass bulletin email outcome of the follow-up…

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December 28th 2021

December 28th 2021

The ATDC informs the community that they will not take into account the ongoing Resident Assembly decision process to make a pause on the development till a decision is made by the community. The ATDC mentions 2 articles of the Auroville Foundation Act 1988, There is no 19(1)(c) there is 19(2)(c). The decisions taken in the last report of the Governing Board were taken by the Secretary and a few selected members from the working groups only, the Residents Assembly was never consulted, no Residents assembly meeting happened since the arrival of the Secretary. These decisions were not done in accordance with the Auroville Foundation Act. Please see the Auroville Foundation act. ATDC members were not selected by the RA but appointed by the Secretary of the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation. The master plan gazetted in 2010 specifies in different part of the document the role of the Resident Assembly. Please see article 1.10.6 of the master plan To understand better the…

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Wednesday, December 22nd, 8AM

Wednesday, December 22nd, 8AM

Against the stay order prohibiting any activities in the area, Auroville Road Service starts laying the HT cable in the trench, despite some trees standing on the path.    

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December 22nd, 2021

December 22nd, 2021

The AVI board sends a second letter to Dr Jayanti Ravi, Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, and to the members of the Governing Board.

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Tuesday, December 21st

Tuesday, December 21st

The stay order has been extended until the next hearing on the January 3rd, 2022.  

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List of acronyms used

ATDC = Auroville Town Development Council

AVIB = Auroville International Board (AVI Centres)

GB = Governing Board

GM = General Meeting

IAC = International Advisory Council

NOC = Non-Objection Certificate

RA = Residents Assembly

RAD = Residents Assembly Decision-making meeting

WC = Working Committee

YC = Youth Centre

What is going on in Auroville?

The current conflict in Auroville is a complex combination of issues: urban town planning, environmental issues, Auroville’s unique governance structure, spiritual beliefs, and the recent silencing of residents.

Recent Events

Despite strong efforts of the community to collaborate on urban planning with the Auroville Town Development Council (ATDC) over past months, the Secretary’s office began sudden bulldozing in two community sites on December 4, without the necessary Work Orders. The aggressive measures continued over the coming days, with some violent scenes, hired enforcers and 900 trees lost. A court Stay Order is now in place until 3 Jan 2022. See our timeline of events. 

What is Auroville?

Auroville is an intentional international community in Tamil Nadu, with about 3500 residents from 58 countries. It is globally recognised for its achievements in the fields of ecological agriculture, reafforestation, renewable energies, sustainable architecture, educational practices, collective living and social enterprise. Based on the evolutionary vision of Sri Aurobindo, and founded by the Mother in 1968, Auroville is endorsed by UNESCO as an experiment in human unity.

What is the Master Plan? 

In the 1960s, the Mother worked with French architect Roger Anger, to develop a galaxy model for Auroville as a ‘city of the future’. After Mother’s time, this concept was developed over the years into a Master Plan (1999, 2001), which is a conceptual or policy framework, to begin planning. The Master Plan is now 20 years old. It lacks the required Detailed Development Plans (DDPs) which are needed for implementation, and needs to be updated to take into account the present-day ground realities, environmental concerns… 

A number of Auroville residents with expertise in town planning have – in the spirit of collaboration – conducted studies and offered their expertise.

What is the conflict about?

The current conflict centres around differing interpretations of the implementation of Auroville’s Master Plan policy framework. Residents largely believe that destruction and development should not take place until the Detailed Development Plans have been completed. The community has requested Auroville’s Town Development Council (ATDC) to collaborate with the community in a meaningful way. 

The ATDC and newly-appointed government authorities in Auroville want to rapidly develop the Crown way, which is a proposed 4km circular road.  Events escalated in recent weeks, even though two Auroville communities on the Crown way (Darkali, Bliss) had presented their alternative development proposals to ATDC. These alternative proposals showed how the Crown concept could be respected whilst preserving precious forest and water catchment systems that are vital to the whole bioregion. The ATDC – which lacks planning expertise and contains some members appointed in questionable processes – ignored these proposals

What are the environmental concerns?

Auroville is renowned globally for its reafforestation initiatives. Over the last 50 years, the land has been transformed from a barren plateau to a thriving forest ecosystem that spans over 1340 acres, and contains three million trees. In particular, the forests have revived the indigenous Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF), which is a rare type of forest found only in the south-east seaboard of India. Auroville has also developed sophisticated water catchment systems, which aim to contribute to the wider bioregion’s water security, which is under extreme threat. The current authorities’ rapid urban development agenda does not consider these issues, and no formal Environmental Impact Assessment was done before the bulldozing started.

What is Auroville’s decision-making process? How is its governance unique?

Auroville functions under a unique legal framework, enacted by the Indian Parliament: the Auroville Foundation Act (1988).  The Act recognises the decision-making role of the Residents’ Assembly (which consists of about 2500 adults in 2021). The Residents’ Assembly and government-appointed Governing Board (represented in Auroville by the Secretary of Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation) are meant to work in harmony together while being interdependent. The Act aims to ensure that there is a balance of power and responsibilities between them. For example, in relation to the Master Plan, it’s understood that neither body has the right to veto the other; decisions should be integrated and brought to cohesion.

However, in recent months, the Secretary of the Governing Board has overridden residents’ concerns and the ongoing collaboration on compromises and is now forging ahead with its selective interpretation and imposition of the Master Plan, and rapid urban development that is not collaboratively planned or ecologically sensitive. The Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly, a group of seven residents whose role is to assist the Residents’ Assembly in carrying its duties, currently has some members who seem to privilege an authoritarian approach over the inclusive and participatory community processes.

Auroville’s aims & ideals

Auroville is based on the evolutionary vision of Indian philosopher and seer Sri Aurobindo, the integral yoga. It was started in 1968 by the Mother. Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.

In recent years, a few community members have developed more extreme views about the Mother’s wish to build a ‘city of the future’. They believe that the execution of the Crown as a ‘perfect circle’ is essential to hasten Auroville’s spiritual development. This crystallised view of the future city contrasts with the approach of many community members who believe that a ‘city of the future’ should be flexible and evolve with time. These underlying disagreements appear to be purposefully amplified by some, to serve disparate agendas.

Silencing Freedom of Speech

On December 7, Outreach Media – Auroville’s long-standing community service that liaises with external media – was notified by the Secretary of Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation that it should “refrain from issuing any statements until further notice”. The Secretary’s office announced that it had appointed two “Official Spokespersons”, without any consultation with the community.

Other aspects of the conflict

There are other aspects to the conflict that are too complex to go into here, including the shadow of larger political agendas, economic aspects, outside land prospecting, and cultural differences within Auroville, which have intensified this difficult situation.

In summary

In short, the current conflict in Auroville is complex! You may find some articles on the ‘In the Press’ page, that synthesise some of the aspects in a way that makes sense to you.

This website aims to provide some resources to make the conflictual situation more understandable.

While the content on this website aims to give  the perspective of 500+ residents (who signed the Kalabhumi statement on 5 December), the content aims to be as factual as possible.

If you want to support the community’s call for non-violent, sustainable, collaborative urban planning, please follow us on social media and sign the petition: https://linktr.ee/helpauroville

Auroville is a place “where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.”
As a member of the Auroville community, I cherish these values and the work we have to do together, whatever the challenges.
I reject violence, threats & actions which undermine community processes and our collective work.

Kalabhumi resolution signed by at least 500 people, 5 December 2021

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