We would like to update you about the unfolding of events at Evergreen, and inform you about the efforts that have taken place so far to safeguard this important plot of Auroville land. We, as the Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly, are doing our best to protect our home and the physical body of Auroville – and this is only possible thanks to the support of many residents.
Update on recent events at Evergreen
On 7th October 2022 in the evening, residents of Evergreen informed us that a JCB had entered into the disputed plot to deliver a large number of cement pillars. The Working Committee of the RA immediately contacted the relevant authorities, including the District Collector and the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), to inform them of the same. The RDO had, in an earlier communication, verbally instructed PKS (who claims to own the land) and Auroville residents to keep status quo until the court had reached a conclusion.
On Saturday 8th October 2022 in the morning, hired workers were brought onto Evergreen land to clear trees and undergrowth and to install the new cement pillars. Residents were called to the spot and attempted to stop the work, which was being done unlawfully since the courts have not yet given their judgment. Your Working Committee and its resource persons immediately called the Collector, the RDO, and other relevant authorities to intervene. The work carried out by PKS’ hired workforce was paused thanks to the joint efforts of Auroville residents, your Working Committee, and other important stakeholders. After more than 10 hours of waiting at the RDO’s office, one of our resource persons managed to get a written statement signed by the RDO ordering that no party should carry out any activity in the disputed area until the courts have given their verdict. We hope this will bring some relief to the residents of Evergreen.
Efforts to safeguard the land
In June 2022, the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation was informed of the encroachment that was taking place at the Abri / Ami / Evergreen corner. This communication, and subsequent communications to the Secretary, were left unreplied. It is important to understand that the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation has an additional function as an “Estate Officer”, which has the potential to safeguard Auroville lands. So far, Dr. Jayanti Ravi has used this power to threaten Aurovilians living on the Crown Right-of-Way; but to the best of our knowledge she has not used her authority as Estate Officer to protect Auroville lands from external encroachers, except shortly after her arrival in the case of AuroOrchard.
At the time when the matter of the encroachment at the Abri/Ami corner was brought to the attention of the Secretary, it should have been a priority to undertake the appropriate administrative steps to prevent further problems and complications. Instead three months passed without any effective actions, until the matter further escalated.
In September 2022, when PKS started to forcefully grab the land we, as your Working Committee, wrote to the Chairman of the Governing Board on five occasions. Our appeal to the Chairman was to instruct the Secretary to take action on the case of Abri / Ami / Evergreen, and on land-grabbing matters in general. In the following days, the Secretary – after various requests – finally instructed one of her officers to file a court case against PKS. We are concerned that this happened more than three months after the land grabbing situation was reported to her, and we wonder why there was not a greater effort made to ensure that a stay order was given by the courts, knowing the extent and aggressive nature of the encroachment that is taking place.
n the following weeks, the situation has continued to escalate further and your Working Committee has continuously had at least one of its members present on site. With the help of resource persons, we have repeatedly been in contact with relevant authorities including the DSP, the Collector, the RDO and the DRO.
All of this has been possible because Aurovilians were present on site and have managed to peacefully resist or slow down the forceful laying of fences around the contested areas, making sure that stewards are not left on their own facing threats and intimidation. It is important for the court proceedings that the contested areas of land are kept under the possession of the Auroville Foundation. We once again appeal to all those who are present on site to document the situation from uncontested areas of land with photo and video evidence, and to remain calm and respectful in all circumstances.
On ‘shadow groups’
In a communication dated 8th October 2022 (link), seven residents of Auroville usurping the identity of the Working Committee of the RA have requested what they call the ‘shadow groups’ “not to issue unnecessary directives which confuse people”, and urging residents not to come to Evergreen “as this has only led to an escalation”. These statements are surprising as they come from residents who do not hold the legitimacy to sign as the Working Committee, and who have not been present on site a single time in the last months. Stewards of the land are also not informed of any recent action taken by them. By asking Aurovilians not to go on site, these seven residents allow PKS to illegally take possession of the plot.
We would like to remind everyone that these residents impersonating the Working Committee have been removed from office in May 2022 by an overwhelming majority, through a vote in which 864 residents participated. In August 2022, a historical record of 1161 voters nearly unanimously affirmed the legitimacy of the Working Groups selected by the Residents’ Assembly, including the undersigned members of the Working Committee.
It is important to remind all that as per the Auroville Foundation Act, only the Residents’ Assembly can decide on the membership of the Working Committee, and decide on the term of office.
As the Working Committee duly selected by the Residents’ Assembly, we will continue to do our duty, uphold our mandated responsibilities, and to serve Auroville and the Mother to the best of our capacities.
Your Working Committee
Aravinda, Bharathy, Chali, Hemant, Maël, Sauro, Valli