Dear community members and friends,
I share with you below a letter that I have sent two days ago to the respected members of the Auroville Governing Board, on the day they were meeting in Auroville. I have decided to send this letter and its questions in a personal capacity after I got informed that the afternoon meeting with 30 community members had been cancelled due to Covid restrictions.
Such communications should usually be channeled through the Working Committee but given how divided the Working Committee currently is, and how opiniated some of its members may be, I felt more comfortable sending this email to the Governing Board members directly.
I have also shared this letter with members of the International Advisory Council, and more recently to the AVI Board. This is now shared with all of you as a matter of transparency.
- Many residents feel worried about the recent events, and the kind of precedent this would set in terms of collaboration between the Residents’ Assembly and the Governing Board. For most of us it is not only about trees, it is mainly about the process, and the ideals of Auroville. In regards to the Crown road, some alternative proposals were suggested for contentious areas such as the Youth Center, the Darkali Forest and others. These proposals aimed at finding a balance between our need for planned development and our concern for protecting the outstanding work that has been done in the field of nature rejuvenation in these areas – which are home to some very valuable species of trees and essential water catchment ponds. While the Town Development Council had said it would consider these proposals, they were brushed away and the sudden bulldozing started without prior notice, backed by the Town Development Council and the Secretariat of the Foundation. Police and hired workers were used to enforce the clearing. This brings to a question: How do you, as the Auroville Governing Board, see your duty to collaborate with the Residents’ Assembly? Can true collaboration, as the Mother wished, be our shared aspiration and can we start working together on building the city in a harmonious way?
- In its letter to you, the International Advisory Council has stated, quoting the Mother’s own saying, that “the manner in which Auroville is built is as important, possibly more, than the outcome”. It has also called for “an actual practice of inclusiveness” to be carried out, mentioning the need: (1) to take into account the experience of the many experts we have in Auroville; (2) to focus first on our common ground rather than on contending issues; (3) to carry out a “thorough environmental audit, by respected and independent experts, of current and future plans”. How do you relate to these recommendations given to you by the International Advisory Council, and how are you taking them into consideration?
- Have you heard of the recent Dreamweaving initiative, which aims at bringing peace, collaboration and inclusiveness to the current conversation about planning the city? Do you support the Dreamweaving initiative? Can there be agreement to pause the bulldozing work until the outcome of this process and the formulation of a detailed development plan by the respected Vastu Shilpa Foundation is completed?
- On a similar note, the Residents’ Assembly is currently having a decision-making process “to pause all clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work on the Right of Ways of Crown, Radials and Outer Ring in order to enable the community to define a way forward for Auroville’s development”. This pause is suggested to allow the Dreamweaving initiative and the Vastu Shilpa Foundation to do their work in a climate of peace, before the work resumes. Will you support the outcome of this Residents’ Assembly Decision-making process?
- More recently the Office of the Auroville Foundation has been asking residents who need a letter of recommendation for their visa procedures to sign a statement mentioning, among other points, that they “abide by the Master Plan” and will not obstruct the work in any way. It is implied that if they do obstruct the work, they will have to face consequences. The Mother never made the acceptance of the Galaxy concept, and even less the acceptance of the Master Plan (which did not exist at the time), a precondition for admission to Auroville. The Auroville International Board has also voiced their concern about this new declaration form. Are you, as the Auroville Governing Board, endorsing this declaration form or can this be seen as an oversight that doesn’t have your support? In case you would be endorsing this document, does it mean that you are considering issuing quit notices and visa suspensions for those which may have differing views to those of the Foundation’s Secretariat?