Update on land-related matters from the Working Committee
We would like to update you on matters related to land-grabbing and land exchange issues.
Situation at Evergreen / Abri / Ami
Since the beginning of September, the land-grabbing situation at the Evergreen / Abri / Ami corner (near Certitude) has intensified. The Working Committee has sent four emails to the Chairman of the Governing Board on the 5th, 8th, 13th and 15th September. Although no acknowledgement or response to these letters has been formally received, we notice that there has been some action by the Office of the Secretary in the following days.
Aurovilians have gone on site 9 times in 3 months to peacefully protest the land grabbing actions of PK Subramani (who claims to be the new owner of the land). The latest such occurrence took place on Thursday 15th September, when an SOS call was issued after PKS’ men arrived at Abri and started to build a fence on the Evergreen land claimed by them. A large group of Aurovilians came, and later also Narendra from the Office of the Secretary, Auroville Foundation. After a sustained peaceful resistance from Aurovilians despite aggressive actions from PKS’ henchmen and employees, an agreement was brokered in the presence of the police, that no work would happen before the court case hearing on 22nd September. Everyone left the place, but shortly after, the PKS crew continued casting large concrete pillars in the presence of the police. Narendra was called again and the work stopped once more. In the following days there was no further action on the Evergreen land; however, PKS continued and completed the fencing of the plot near Ami/Abri, cutting into part of the road going to Abri.
On 19th September, a meeting was held in the Auroville Foundation Office. Present were: the Secretary, Dr Jayanti Ravi, with two lands officers working for the Auroville Foundation; Aravinda (Working Committee), Natasha and Amos (residents of the impacted area); and PK Subramani (who claims to be the new owner of the land) with his advocate and his brother. A lot was said from both sides in regards to the legal ownership of the land – a matter which is currently in Court. The Secretary requested that all action on ground be halted until the court decision, but this seemed to remain at the level of a sensible request only, not the powerful authority of the Estate Officer – a status and responsibility which she solely holds. Several rounds of discussion took place but did not conclude with a clear agreement to halt the fencing work.
We don’t have clarity from this meeting regarding the residents’ mode of action, should the fencing work start again, especially if they start to fence inside the Evergreen area. The Secretary remained vague on the matter, stating that it is up to residents to choose what they wish to do.
On one hand, fences can eventually be undone after winning the court case, says one logic. This is debatable and can take a long time.
On the other hand, blocking the fencing work in large numbers, peaceful yet forceful and with a risk of breaking into violence that can be easily provoked, has two possible consequences:
1. Establishing an image of strength and solidarity to deter other attempts of encroachments; or
2. Resulting violence being recorded as evidence of ‘unruly’ residents, for the court cases in Chennai to show that we are neither capable nor worthy of self-governance, and also possible FIRs against Aurovilians.
On the 22nd of September there was a second hearing in the Tindivanam Court. However, no injunction was granted and the case was adjourned to the 14th of October because PKS has not yet filed a counter in the case, which he has 60 days to do.
As we write, the fencing work at Evergreen has resumed with a large number of hired hands, both women and men.
We understand the distress and sadness that is felt by so many. However, it is of utmost importance that all those present on site remain peaceful, do not provoke nor react, do not escalate the situation but continue to document the happenings. We sincerely appeal to all to please remain in a state of calm inner strength and balance. This may be difficult at times but it is by our collective effort at remaining peaceful at all costs that the situation can be dealt with in the most efficient and constructive manner.
Land exchanges conducted without following due process
Residents may be aware of a matter of land exchange which has been conducted recently between the Auroville Foundation office and a private party, in which a portion of Djaima land has been given away. Reportedly, several communities have also been visited recently by unidentified people who claimed their visits were due to ongoing land-exchange negotiations.
These land exchange processes have been initiated and carried out without following due procedure, since the FAMC and the Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly have not been consulted on the matter. This is of grave concern and please be assured that we are doing everything in our capacity to address the topic at several levels. Further updates will be shared as and when necessary.
Thanks to all the residents who continue to be present and offer support, calmly and courageously, for safeguarding our land – without which Auroville wouldn’t be able to manifest.
Let us remain strong together, for Unity is our true nature.
Your Working Committee
Aravinda, Bharathy, Chali, Hemant, Maël, Sauro, Valli