Doubling Auroville

May 29, 2022 | Blog, Organisation & governance, Processes by-passed

Doubling Auroville by Rod Hemsell

A few weeks ago in an article titled Truth or the Abyss I emphasized this disjunctive proposition, stated by the Mother around 1968, as a paradigm for putting in perspective many situations and choices that confronted humanity in the world in general at the time, but also specifically those that confront us today in Auroville. At this point I would like to present some of the recent events that make the choice for us even more immediate and imperative: Truth or the Abyss.

There are at this moment two Aurovilles, with two “Working Committees” (WC #1, – the group that was recently elected to officially represent the Resident’s Assembly in administrative matters, and #2, – a group consisting of 4 members from the previous WC plus three others, who have been recognized by the Secretary, in opposition to the RA). And there are two legally authorized governing bodies: the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation, and the Residents’ Assembly of the Auroville Foundation, which are actively opposing each other. There are also two significant segments of the Auroville community, divided roughly according to their understanding of Auroville’s essential meaning and purpose, and consequently divided in their allegiances to the two opposed governing bodies and WCs. I hope to demonstrate this division, and its seriousness, with evidence from four sources: the Secretary’s public statement of May 26, the GB’s April Meeting Minutes released on May 25, a message from the WC (Secretary’s Office/AVFO) on May 25, and a message from the WC (RA) on May 27.

The Secretary of the Governing Board (GB), Dr. Jayanti Ravi, released a video-recorded message to the Auroville Community on May 26, 2022, in which she said: “We are being guided by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother through a decisive point in time.” Her 20 minute talk was packed with rhetorical implications and almost no facts, with the exception of the number of visas recommended by her office so far: 560 for the length of time requested, 37 for one year, and 5 for three months (total 602) but no “rejections”. Then she said that she had studied all the GB minutes since 1988 and found two “recurring refrains”: 1) an aspiration to see the city manifested, bring in better governance, etc, and 2) a few who have always tried from the beginning to bring in obstacles to realizing the dream of the city. In this context she stressed that those who want to collaborate in building the city have nothing to fear, but if there are illegal activities against the constitution or the Charter there will be “no option but to resort to taking this action.” She didn’t say exactly what she meant by “illegal activities” or “taking this action” although the restriction and rejection of visas had just been mentioned. She also mentioned here that updating the Register of Residents was necessary before an election by the RA could be considered valid, and that this was a requirement of “government” – which seemed to imply that we are acting illegally by accepting the WC (RA) which was elected on May 10 by a vote of 800 to 80. This act of opposition to the GB and the Secretary’s control of Auroville is clearly not the “bringing of an obstacle to building the city by a small clique” but something much larger: it is a democratic action by a large majority against an authoritarian take-over of Auroville. She implied that it is the government that is making this phony requirement concerning the Register of Residents, and that resisting it is therefore illegal. Both implications are false, but the message is clear.

Important facts not mentioned by the Secretary include 1) that her office made a complaint to the police against the WC(RA) for occupying its legitimate office space, and 2) they also made a police complaint that using the internal media to make their official announcements was a cyber crime. As the WC(RA) wrote in its recent report to the community: “Since the latest decision of the Residents’ Assembly on May 10th, and the appointment of our interim members on May 14th, we have been dealing with a number of urgent and sensitive issues which have unfortunately not left much space for communication. These include attempts to take over our office space in Town Hall, FIRs (First Investigation Reports) filed against six Aurovilians including members of the Working Committee, Visa-related issues…; 2) The update of the Register of Residents does not affect the validity of any RA- ratified decision-making process, including the most recent RAD or the selection process beinginitiated. Residents’ Assembly Decisions are taken based on the Master List, which is regularly updated by the Residents’ Service; 3) The admin rights of Auronet have been handed over to the Secretary’s

Office and our access for posting information and updates to the community on behalf of the Working Committee, which used to be one of the major tools of our communication (referred to in the police complaint as “cybercrimes”), has been removed” (May 27). I should add that during this same short period of time many residents of Auroville have also lost their access to the community’s internal communication network, which has been taken over by the Secretary’s Office, just as the community’s Outreach Media was taken over by them several weeks ago.

And from the other WC(AVFO) we read, on May 25, “…the Governing Board directs the Residents Assembly to pause any decisions taken by the Resident Assembly before the updation of the Register of Residents; all current ongoing activities such as with the RAD (Residents Assembly’s decision-making processes) are to be stopped with immediate effect until the Register of Residents (RoR) has been fully updated on an urgent basis. Any such decision taken before updating the Register of Residents will be invalid, null and void. Then, in a subsequent communication, they attempt to clarify the overarching premise of “government” or GB/AVFO authority: “It (AVF) is autonomous, not a govt department. But as per the Act, GB has final executive powers. IAC / RA are advisory and work with GB” (May 25). They are pretending to have the authority of government, and to be the sole governing authority of Auroville, but both pretenses are false.

Other important facts that I think most people would consider to be of general interest but were not revealed by the Secretary, are to be found in the minutes of the April meeting of the GB, released only on May 25, which few people would ever see of course. In this document we read, for example, that 1) The Board noted and approved that an MOU with CPWD has been entered into for the execution of various township development projects. (CPWD – Central Public Works Department, the construction management department of government responsible for architecture, engineering, project management across the country…); 2) The Board approved to appoint a retired security officer in the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police for security related issues; 3) The Board approved the formation of a legal cell in the office of the Secretary, AVF to look into all legal matters related to AVF including land purchase, land disputes, other litigations…; 4) The Board requested the Organisation and Governance Committee to review the present functioning of various working groups and come up with proposals that will improve overall governance towards the realization of the aims and objectives of Auroville.”

Although the Secretary did not mention these matters of the Board and her office, she said that the present situation was “a reaction to the disruption of the status quo that has continued for decades” and she referred several times to “a small group of people who are trying to do their best to see that it doesn’t change”. She referred to this “change” as the basis for a cleaner, clearer governance system to ensure our safety and security, greater transparency, better economy, and the development of facilities for more and more people who want to serve the divine. She said “The cycle of resisting this change is something we must absolutely denounce.” She did not mention consulting with the RA in order to achieve these things. She did not say that she and the GB were here to help us achieve the goals to which our community is committed. She did not mention that those who were legitimately elected to represent the RA were being charged with committing anti-government activities and cyber crimes. Instead, she frequently praised this “beautiful, magnificent, exquisite experiment”, while implying that the newly appointed GB, through her office, plans to do everything possible to completely take it over and control it. She also said, in more ways than one, that they expect us to collaborate with their efforts to put the new governance system in place, and not to resist it in any way.

I infer from the thrust of these statements that those who resist “in any way” and regardless of the numbers and the precedents, will be considered part of that small “clique” of obstructionists. They will become scapegoats and will be persecuted as an example of what “absolutely must be denounced”. They will be those who best resist the pull of the Abyss and adhere most firmly to the Truth.