Message sent by the Bona Fide Working Committee to the AVI (Auroville International) after a message has been sent by the self appointed Aurovilians who claimed to be the Working Committee:
As many of you in the AVI family are well aware, the current situation in Auroville is complex and challenging, especially after the traumatic events that took place in early December last year.
The email copied below, that was sent to you on 1st August 2022, is signed by seven residents who are not the Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly, even though they call themselves as such; they are at most serving the interests of the Secretariat and the Governing Board. The heavy-handed administration of the Secretary, supported by the staff of the Secretariat and a group of radically-minded Aurovilians, has, since last December, carried out the forcible take-over of several core activities of the community. This is characterised by the replacement of legitimate working groups and essential services by some hand-picked individuals, including appointed ‘staff’ who are not Aurovilians. The list of these take-overs is frightfully long and rapidly increasing even as we write.
As the letter in question is replete with inaccuracies, we feel compelled to point out some important points:
• After the brutal bulldozing and clearing of trees through the Bliss Forest and the Youth Centre last December, two Aurovilians sought the intervention of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) as an emergency action to prevent imminent further destruction. After the court ruling, there has been the demolition of buildings and the felling of additional trees in areas of the planned crown road that are yet to be finalised by the Joint Committee appointed by the NGT. The said destruction was done without presenting any drawings or plans and therefore without knowing if and how the crown road will pass through these areas.
- This Joint Committee consists of the Collector and the Forest Officer only, and does not include the Secretary as stated in the message below.
- Unfortunately, under pressure from the Secretary, the Joint Committee has been
mainly consulting her, rather than the Aurovilians who are the petitioners of the case. Thankfully, members of the Town Development Council that was recently constituted by the Residents’ Assembly have managed to meet and send a report to the Joint Committee as well, and to share with them the several studies that have been done by professionals, to help the JC understand the issues at stake and the ground realities and eco-sensitivity of the contentious areas.
- Due to her rank as a senior IAS officer, and with the backing of the Governing Board appointed by the Ministry of Education, the Secretary has been influencing and manipulating local government bodies and occasionally the police, while taking actions that are arbitrary, vindictive, unlawful and not in accordance with the Auroville Foundation Act.
- In May, the Secretary’s office called the police force to dislodge the legitimate Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly (RA) from their office, and when this was unsuccessful, a false criminal complaint was filed against six Aurovilians.
- Under these conditions, given the failure of countless attempts made towards a unifying and amicable understanding and collaboration, some Aurovilians were compelled to approach the High Court in Chennai, as a last resort to safeguard the ideals of Auroville, and protect the basis of its growth in harmony and unity which is the very purpose of the Auroville Foundation Act.
- “A section of Aurovilians” who have resisted this forcible take-over (falsely labelled as being ‘against the city’, opposed to the Master Plan and against development itself) is in fact a large majority of the residents of Auroville, as is amply evident from the recent community meetings and processes of the RA. As a comparison, the occasional meetings called by the Secretary and her self-appointed groups are on private invite only, and are attended by not more than a few dozens of people.
- The letter dismisses working groups duly selected by the RA as “parallel working groups in protest against the Foundation”, while the groups imposed by the Secretariat are touted as the legitimate ones. This is incongruous since the Residents’ Assembly is given the sole authority, as per the Auroville Foundation Act, to constitute and appoint its own committees. This power and duty has not been discharged by the RA to the Secretary.
- The term ‘Foundation’ is frequently appropriated for the Secretary and her office, while in fact the Auroville Foundation consists of the Governing Board, the Residents’ Assembly and the International Advisory Council as the three statutory bodies, meant to work in mutuality with their distinct roles and responsibilities.
- The hasty implementation of the crown road, under the garb of ‘an accelerated phase of development’, apparently rushing to complete a cycle path for the 15th August, has so far seen only the ripping apart of previously paved large stretches of the existing road, without notice and for undisclosed reasons, blocking proper access to some residential communities and schools, as well as to the health centre Santé. A photo of these most recent developments is attached below. There are serious concerns about the quality and professionality of the planning and execution of these works outsourced to the CPWD, and widespread confusion about the ruining of perfectly paved roads.
- The oppressive, totalitarian style of the Secretary and her administration has distanced and antagonised many residents who are eager to see Auroville grow, and who had initially greeted her arrival with high hopes of accelerated and collaborative progress.
- As Sri Aurobindo’s 150th anniversary approaches, we are regretful to observe that this way of working has turned away many residents from the activities organised by
the Secretary as they do not feel the right atmosphere and the true spirit of dedication to our Ideals in them, but rather a shallow PR exercise.
• “Interactions with residents… at the Unity Pavilion on 26.7.22” was only for invited members and not open to the community, unlike the General Meetings and Residents’ Assembly Meetings that are regularly organised by the Residents’ Assembly Service (RAS). And many concerns of the residents were not answered by the 3 groups appointed by the Secretariat who were presenting. One should compare a meeting like this attended by 50-60 supporters with community gatherings initiated by young Tamil Aurovilians attended by increasing numbers of Aurovilians, reaching well over 1000 for the gathering of 16th July in Certitude.
We are fondly looking forward to the visit to Auroville of those of our AVI family who can make it, and hope that you will reach out to your long-term friends here and get a first-hand perspective of their experiences of the reality on the ground. We are with you in the faith that the Mother’s Dream of the City the Earth Needs will emerge from the current ordeal, and manifest in spite of the challenges that are forcing us to rise in the true spirit of Auroville.
With best wishes,
The Working Committee selected by the Residents’ Assembly of the Auroville Foundation
Aravinda, Bharathy, Chali, Hemant, Maël, Sauro, Valli”