Emergency RAD – August 2022
Joint statement from the working groups of the RA on the current legal situation, the Emergency RAD and a response to the false information sent by massbulletin@
[On 19th August, one day after the Emergency RAD was announced, the group of Aurovilians illegally claiming to be the Working Committee sent an unsigned massbulletin to the community that contained threats and misinformation. The post claimed that the call for a RAD was “a flagrant contempt of court; as the recently passed order very clearly states – that no such activities are to be pursued until the completion of the RoR” and additionally made the threat that there would be“some very serious consequences on all those participating in it [the RAD]”]
The voice and central role of Aurovilians in the governance of Auroville has been recognised in the Madras High Court.
The Court in its judgment dated 12.8.2022 has reaffirmed that “under the Auroville Foundation, Auroville will be administered by the people of Auroville”, “to [the] benefit of the residents of Auroville who abide by the Auroville Charter” and that we are responsible for the development of Auroville with the supervisory guidance of the Governing Board and the International Advisory Council.
The Residents’ Assembly is one of the three authorities of the Auroville Foundation and it is not subordinate to the Governing Board and the International Advisory Council. It is instead an authority equal to the others, and all have to work on equal footing in a spirit of mutuality. All internal committees hold a responsibility of the Residents’ Assembly in the management of the day-to-day activities of Auroville, and these committees cannot be constituted without the Residents’ Assembly’s involvement.
For this reason, the judgment stated that appointments to the Town Development Council (TDC) without consultation of the Residents’ Assembly are invalid. Furthermore, the High Court recognized that the nomination and appointment of the Working Committee is purely an internal affair of the Residents’ Assembly and has declared invalid (quashed) the letter from the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) of the Office of the Secretary of 6th May asking to stop all decisions and meetings of the Residents’ Assembly (on the ground that the Register of Residents was not updated).
Thus, the decision of the Residents’ Assembly of 10th May regarding the Working Committee and all subsequent actions are valid. The only legally recognized Working Committee is the one established through the Residents’ Assembly and not the one currently recognized by the Office of the Secretary. Read the full Judgment: WCom TDC Judgement
The calm strength and composure of residents throughout these difficult months has been a major contribution to winning the cases for the Residents’ Assembly. We have been able to demonstrate and stick to the ‘high ground’, continuing our collective work in the spirit of unity and it is essential we remain calm and equanimous against all acts of aggression or provocation at all times, now and always. We may need to be prepared for a marathon rather than a sprint regarding the current path of legal actions that we had to take in order to reaffirm the role and standing of the Auroville Residents as a whole, the Residents’ Assembly.
We invite you all, regardless of your opinion, to participate in the on-going Emergency RAD which follows the recent Court judgment. Please note that the proposed resolution (https://mailchi.mp/auroville/text-resolution-04-2022-1001050) is an operational decision, not a policy decision, as it is not deciding something new. It is to affirm what is already valid, recognising the ruling and directions of the Hon’ble Madras High Court in all matters, including updating the Register of Residents prior to new policy decisions being taken. We reject the false and desperate attempts that are being made by a few claiming otherwise.
We, the working groups selected by the Residents’ Assembly, are together in our commitment to uphold and harness the voice of the Residents’ Assembly and the richness of our diversity as we strive towards the Charter and The Mother’s Dream.
Working Committee, Auroville Council, Town Development Council, Funds and Assets Management Committee of the Residents’ Assembly
Questions & Answers
Why is this emergency RAD needed? What is the emergency?
On 12th August 2022, the Madras High Court issued a ruling to a case filed by the Working Committee and this ruling needs to be implemented as soon as possible. The Working Committee needs to get the participation of the Residents’ Assembly (RA) to implement decisions by the Madras High Court relating to the administration of Auroville. Furthermore, this resolution aims at affirming the important role of Aurovilians in the day-to-day activities of Auroville – to ensure that as residents of Auroville, we are invited to participate actively in co-creating this unique experiment on Human Unity.
Why did the Working Committee go to Court?
Since May 2022, many decisions have been taken by the Office of the Secretary to either remove or appoint members to committees, working groups and services without consulting the RA or its appointed groups. This has resulted in several cases where people who do not believe in the residents’ right to participate in building Auroville were appointed and have started forcing the community to comply with a top-down authoritarian approach that is contrary to the spirit of Auroville. This is a serious threat to our ways of working and the legal framework of the Auroville Foundation. To prevent a long-lasting damage to our collective functioning, the Working Committee decided to challenge this way of functioning in the Madras High Court.
What is the outcome of the Madras High Court judgment?
The judgment is of course complex, but here we will try to explain it simply. The decision has roughly three parts:
- The first part is about setting principles of working together between the four components of the Auroville Foundation: the Governing Board, the International Advisory Council, the Residents’ Assembly and the Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly. The order states clearly that none of these bodies is above the others, and all of them have to work together in a spirit of cooperation, mutuality and brotherhood. The Madras High Court insisted that the Auroville Foundation Act was crafted for the Residents of Auroville, and decisions should therefore be taken in consultation with the Residents’ Assembly.
- In the second part, the orders issued by the Office of the Secretary attempting to invalidate recent decisions of the Residents’ Assembly have been invalidated. The offices of the Working Committee and the Town Development Council (TDC) selected by the Residents’ Assembly have been recognised and restored.
- In the third part, the judgment directs the Office of the Secretary to implement the updation of the Register of Residents as soon as possible. Until the RoR is updated, none of the authorities of the Auroville Foundation is empowered to take any policy decision. This does not affect operational decisions for the daily functioning of Auroville and its committees.
What decision are we making through this resolution of the Residents’ Assembly?
This resolution includes five important decisions:
- To accept the decision of the Madras High Court in letter and spirit, and agree to its implementation.
- To refuse any decisions or orders by the Office of Secretary which are taken without the involvement of the Residents’ Assembly, as the Madras High Court has ruled that all decisions, including appointments, have to be made in consultation with the RA. Therefore, decisions and orders that have been made without consultation with the RA are not valid.
- To request the Governing Board to recall all office orders and appointments of people which were done without consultation with the Residents’ Assembly.
- To affirm and confirm the members of Committees, Working Groups and Services which were selected by the Residents’ Assembly.
- To instruct the Working Committee to support the exercise of updating the Register of Residents by the Office of the Secretary, as directed by the Court.
Are we being asked to make a policy decision, which is prohibited by the court until the RoR updating has been completed?
This is not a policy decision as it is not deciding something new. It is an operational decision regarding the day to day functioning of the Residents’ Assembly as it is affirming what was already existing and not creating anything new. It is also confirming that the Residents’ Assembly accepts and recognises the ruling and directions of the Hon’ble Madras High Court, in all matters, including updating the RoR.
Why should I participate in this emergency RAD?
Over the past years, there have been regular efforts to improve the involvement of the community in the management of Auroville. The need for an active and strong Residents’ Assembly has become even clearer in December 2021. Recent events in Auroville show us that if we are not together then we become vulnerable.
Many of our brothers and sisters have lost their jobs without proper reasons given, and/or are under threat for their life in Auroville. Several of us, including women, have been exposed to physical and moral violence. Recommendation letters for visas are being withheld or reduced, using them as tools of coercion. Harassment and intimidation tactics are increasing. Sooner or later, these divisive tactics may reach each person in Auroville. Any of us can be asked to leave our houses because lands are being exchanged with real estate developers unit executives can be asked to leave from one day to another; guest house managers can be changed overnight, and homestays taken away; farm stewards may be changed without notice; jobs could be taken away and given to non-Aurovilians, like was done in the Auroville Archives and Land Board; residents with skills to offer might slowly leave, which could mean the closure of services, schools, units and much more. All of us are exposed to the danger of being punished if we don’t follow the few selected people appointed by the Secretary without the participation of the Residents’ Assembly.
What will change if we pass this resolution?
If a large number of residents participate, it will show the strength and the determination of the Residents’ Assembly. Whatever the outcome, if a large number of residents participate it will be an expression of the voice of the RA. In this way, we each, as members of the Residents’ Assembly, have the power to bring about change by expressing our opinions and views.. Let us remember that the purpose of Auroville is to realize Human Unity, while respecting and encouraging diversity. Unity has the potential to rise above any danger, above all that aims at destroying our family and home. We need to stand up now, together.
If we do not participate in safeguarding and cherishing the Auroville we love, then we are opening the door to outside forces willing to take over and destroy Auroville. The risk is to lose everything we have built together over the past 54 years. Our aspiration by passing this resolution is to safeguard and develop Auroville, and foster the realization of the Mother’s Dream.
What if I don’t agree with the proposed resolution or have no opinion on it?
We encourage every member of the RA to still participate. There are 3 options on the ballot: I Agree, I Disagree or I Abstain. Each member of the Resident’s Assembly has the responsibility and the power to participate in decision-making towards Auroville’s collective growth and progress.
What if other parties do not agree with the decision of the Residents’ Assembly?
The Working Committee aims at finding a collaborative way forward, in which all needs can be met while respecting the voice of the Residents’ Assembly. If the Residents’ Assembly is again at risk of losing its voice and its right to participate actively in building Auroville, our last resort will be to ask the Court to intervene once again. This will take time. With patience and faith, we trust that the voice and will of the Residents’ Assembly will be heard and respected, we will move together toward working with the other bodies of the Auroville Foundation in a spirit of mutuality, and the Mother’s Dream will boldly spring towards its true realization.
I still don’t understand the resolution. Who can explain?
In the next few days (Friday through Monday), residents and Working Committee members will be available at the Solar Kitchen parking, from 12 noon to 2 pm. Any of these volunteers could be approached for explanations. On Monday 22nd August, which will be the last voting day, we request all units to give time off to Aurovilians from 3 pm onwards, so that all can come to the Solar Kitchen for clarifications and to cast their vote.
How and until when can I vote?
Online voting is open until Monday 22nd August at midnight. The individual voting link has been sent to you via email – if you haven’t received it, please write to [email protected]. Please note that you must use a non-auroville.org.in email address to reach the Residents’ Assembly Service.
In-person voting can be done with paper ballots by visiting the RAS at their office in Town Hall on Thursday 18th, Friday 19th or Saturday 20th, between 10 am and 12 noon. On Monday 22nd, you can also do physical voting at Solar Kitchen between 12 noon and 7pm.