This morning, Monday 8 August ’22, the Working Committee sent the below mail to all AVI Centres in response to a mail that was sent to AVI by the AVFO-appointed WC.
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
Dear Auroville International friends,
Dear AVI Board, AVI Centres, and AVI Liaisons everywhere in the world —
Greetings from Auroville on the auspicious occasion of Sri Aurobindo’s 150th birth anniversary
We hope that all is well with you and that many of you are planning to travel to Auroville soon to be here during August and participate in the upcoming celebrations.
To bring you up-to-date on a few of the events happening now:
— Auroville is going through an accelerated phase of development. The Crown road – one of the most important features of the Galaxy — is being worked on in several stretches at the same time, and the work is proceeding fast now. We are aiming to have a bicycle path ready on the 15th of August to be able to cycle the entire 4.4 km circle of crown road. The stretch through Darkali where the most trees have been planted along the Crown path will be prepared last. We are awaiting the result of the meeting of the Joint Committee (with the Collector, the Forest Department and Dr Jayanti Ravi, Auroville Foundation Secretary) which was formed after the NGT (= National Green Tribunal) verdict. There are still a few private land owners on the Crown. They have all been contacted by the Auroville Foundation and have expressed their willingness to exchange their land and this exchange is in process.
— The Governing Board had its last meeting in Auroville on 12th of July and reaffirmed its pledge to help Auroville build the city infrastructure with GOI funds.
— Unfortunately, as you may have heard, a section of Aurovilians continues to protest against the present crown and city development for different reasons, but mainly because they do not agree with the gazetted Master Plan based on the city plan which had been worked out by the Mother with her chief architect Roger Anger during the course of 3 years. This section is trying to stop and delay the development, they have even have filed court cases against the Foundation and against individual Aurovilians. Some of these groups are very vocal and active and have created parallel working groups in protest against the Foundation. This conflict is not between the Foundation or the government and Auroville, but it is an internal Auroville conflict which has always existed due to various opinions, life styles and interpretations. However now, since city-building has started in earnest, the conflict has come to the surface and polarized the community.
— But despite the apparent disharmony, the work goes on.
The Working Committee’s most recent endeavour is to attract new people to join Auroville. Only a few newcomers have joined in the past years and this needs urgently to change to make it easier and more welcoming for new people to explore Auroville as guests, volunteers, and ultimately as newcomers. As you know, Auroville is destined to be a city with 50.000 inhabitants. So, a long way still to go !
To prepare for the arrival of new people we are preparing for temporary and movable modules to accommodate them and in parallel, start permanent housing projects in Residential Sector 1 & 2 and the LoG soon. The plans for 1st phase of the ‘Line of Goodwill’ – the longest Line of Force which will stretch approximately 900 meters as a curvilinear hillscape from the Matrimandir Lake to the Visitors Centre — are almost ready. This first phase can accommodate 800 people. Another 200 to 300 can be accommodated in the residential sectors 1+2. So we are looking to invite 1000 new Aurovilians in one to two years in phases. We call this project “The 1000-bed project”.
Therefore, we ask you to help us with a renewed call in your country to make Auroville known via social media, TV, publications, and other means, and assist people to come and participate in the ‘Adventure of Consciousness’ ! People should try it out for a few months, and we will do our part here to guide the new arrivals properly, accommodate them and help them find meaningful and proper work to experience Auroville. We are working on a 6 months package — accommodation, work place, food and, very importantly, introductory sessions on Integral Yoga, Mother and Sri Aurobindo, the aims and objective of Auroville, and an overview of the city, guided by Aurovilian mentors – all-in-all for a reasonable monthly contribution.
— The 3 main working groups are under pressure to perform, streamline operations and get Auroville back on track.
“Interactions with residents” by the Working Committee, FAMC and L’avenir d’Auroville at the Unity Pavilion on 26.7.22 will give you a good overview of the present situation, the work ahead and the development plans, plus the difficulties Auroville faces in general. Please see the YouTube video of the joint meeting and presentations: https://youtu.be/vO3gfbk44Bg
A Message to the Auroville Community was recorded by Dr. Jayanti Ravi, Secretary of the Auroville Foundation on 30 July 2022 ; see her YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/wmcodC13Nj8
The July-issue #4 of Auroville Tomorrow published by Auroville Interface Media provides a whole range of interesting articles, interviews, and videos. See attached. It includes an article on the exhibition of the city plan Galaxy model at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York as part of the exhibition ‘The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985 (February 20-July 2, 2022)’. Have a look and listen!
In the near future we would also like to organize a zoom-meeting or webinar with all of you, to share our future work plans with you and to answer your questions. We will announce the date soon.
For the 15th of August programs, please see pdf files attached
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address devotees of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo on 15th of August
- The Matrimandir program
And last, we want to thank you for all you do and your commitment for Auroville !
Let us be united in the Mother’s vision of Auroville.
With our best wishes
Anu, Arun, Joseba, Srimoyi, Partha, Selvaraj, Tine
(Working Committee of the Residents Assembly)