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.

The judgement from NGT

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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.

May 21th, 2022

The community has been informed that on 17 May, the Office of the Auroville Foundation filed a police complaint against six Aurovilians, for alleged ‘illegal’ and ‘illegitimate’ activities. Police have subsequently filed a first information report (FIR)*. The complaint alleges that these six Aurovilians had ‘illegally taken over’ the Working Committee office and had ‘obstructed’ the ‘lawful entry’ of dismissed Working Committee members. These dismissed members refuse to accept a Resident’s Assembly Decision (made by 92% of 864 voting residents on 10 May) that removed them from their roles as members of the Working Committee, as the community had lost confidence in them. The complaint states that these dismissed members are ‘recognised by the Auroville Foundation’, and alleges that the legitimate community representatives ‘are indulging in criminal activities against Auroville’. Three of the six Aurovilians in the FIR are not members of the Working Committee. A view on the current conflict: https://standforaurovilleunity.com/blog/aims-ideals/the-conflict-in-auroville/ To know more about Auroville organisation:https://standforaurovilleunity.com/auroville-organisation/ To know more about the last Residents Assembly decision:https://standforaurovilleunity.com/announcement/may-10th-2022/ About the Register of Residents: https://standforaurovilleunity.com/blog/processes-by-passed/about-the-register-of-residents/ *First Information…

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May 20th, 2022

The intranet of Auroville, Auronet, and SYSOP, the service in charge of the domain name of Auroville and related email addresses of the working groups, services, units and all Aurovilians and of Auroville web services, have been taken over by the Foundation office. It is no longer under the purview of the Residents Assembly. In the current situation,…

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May 18th, 2022

The Foundation Office has sent the police to the Town Hall. They wanted the Working Committee of the Resident Assembly to give keys to the offices and thus in the absence of the necessary legal order and justification. A Police Officer tried to insist that the Working Committee give access to others (Working Committee members recently dismissed by the RA and self appointed ones). Since it was categorically refused, the police has shut down the entire Town Hall office,…

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May 17th, 2022

The AV Foundation Office has demanded administrative access to all of Auroville’s electronic media supposedly due to a ‘complaint’ about ‘anti-government activities’. The email below has been addressed to the Auronet Administrators (Auroville Intranet) as well as Sysop & Blue Light (the administrators for all of the @auroville email IDs and servers of the Town Hall). This demand is again bypassing Auroville due processes. The Working Committee of the Resident Assembly has immediately addressed to the AV Foundation office an answer reminding the principles of Auroville organisation regards to this case and the frame of India’s law, so has been done by the FAMC (Funds and Assets Management Committee of Auroville) Links to Pdf documents below: Secretary office’s email reg. admistration of Auronet Working Committee’s reply to the Under Secretary reg. administration of the Auronet and…

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May 12th, 2022

May 12th, 2022

Occupation of the WC meeting room Aurovilians former members of the WC dismissed by the decision of the RAD are refusing to step back, and some of their “supporters” ( are occupying the WC meeting room. They are in possession of the key and are refusing to give it back.

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May 10th, 2022

Outcome of the Resident Assembly DECISION-MAKING PROCESS: This decision made by the Residents Assembly is to replace the 4 Working Committee members who condoned the violent actions against our community. The Working Committee is made up of 7 community members whose responsibility is to represent the Residents Assembly to the Governing Board and other outside entities.The 4 members who were voted out have failed to do so, and have instead been promoting their own personal agendas. The RAS registered 864 valid votes. It is the second highest turnout for a Resident Assembly decision ever, following the previous one on the implementation of the Crown. The outcome of this RAD clearly shows that the…

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May 9th, 2022

A letter is sent by concerned residents to the GB in response to their intimation of stopping the RA process: Response to Dr. G Seetharaman regarding the validity of current RA Decisions In Response: Letter sent by Dr. G Seetharaman communicating that “𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘉𝘰𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘥𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘈𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘥𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘣𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘈𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘶𝘱𝘥𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘨𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘧 𝘙𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴.” May 9th, 2022 Dear Dr. G Seetharaman, Thank you for your communication dt. 06.05.22 in which you mention that the Register of Residents (RoR) has not been updated since 2005. You also note a “complete dysfunctional state of affairs with the many committees of the Residents’ Assembly (RA)”. You have informed us that in order to “help overcome this dire situation the Governing Board directs the Residents Assembly to pause any decisions taken by the Resident Assembly before the updation of the Register of Residents; all current ongoing activities such as with the RAD (Residents Assembly’s decision-making processes) are to be stopped with immediate effect until the Register of Residents (RoR) has been fully updated on an urgent basis. Any such decision taken before updating the Register of Residents will…

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May 9th, 2022

At the same time a reply is formulated by a part of the divided Working Committee: Dear Sir, We are in receipt of your letter of 6th May, 2022, regarding the Register of Residents. We are writing in our capacity as members of the Working Committee and the Residents’ Assembly. We note that your letter is partly in…

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May 9th, 2022

Updating the Community on the Youth Center’s communication with the ATDC Dear ATDC/L’Avenir d’Auroville 9th May 2022 CCed: AVC, WC, AVF, FAMC We have some questions regarding Anbu’s (ATDC representative) recent email communications to Auroville resident Uma Prajapati dated 9.5.2022. As we have previously stated and Anbu has confirmed in his communications with Uma, there are no structures on the Crown area. Why, then,…

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May 8th, 2022

A letter is sent by concerned Aurovilians to the Secretary of the Auroville foundation regards to the demand of the ATDC about so-called unauthorized construction in Auroville. To: Secretary, Auroville Foundation Auroville Foundation Bhavan Villupuram, Tamil Nadu 605101 Dear Madam, It has come to our notice that the Auroville Town Development Council (ATDC) has issued a statement to the Auroville Community that “all unauthorised constructions in Auroville will need to be removed or repurposed until a renovation or removal, partial or full, is necessary”. This is to let you know that no construction by the residents of Auroville is unauthorised as per the Auroville Foundation Act 1988 or Rules 1997, or any other statute / law in force. The residents, in fulfilling their statutory duties, have faithfully built the assets of Auroville, and the Foundation is not authorised to disturb or demolish any of its buildings in contravention to the Residents’ Assembly or its activities. The ATDC has sent a letter to the Youth Centre…

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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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