I feel very concerned with the present confusion in Auroville. While the aggressions continue, many voices seem to advocate appeasement. It triggers bad memories of yesterday, when aggressions were not effectively checked and ended, in Churchill’s famous words, with “dishonor and war”.
Out of all the ongoing “peace” meetings, has any significant progress been made? Deep listening is a fine attitude as long as it is shared. How do we know that? So far, repeated experiences have shown that promises have been abundantly made only to reveal their emptiness soon after.
It is often said that Auroville is such a place where extremes can reconcile. The Mother herself spoke about this indeed very remarkable potentiality. But I am yet to hear that the tenants of the strict interpretation of a “Masterplan” with its fully circular Crown road, 12 radials and outer ring road have reconsidered their position when confronted with an abundance of environmental and societal facts showing the potentially catastrophic impacts on the ground.
When foreign Aurovilians are made to sign their obedience to the Masterplan and its main features in order to be eligible to the indispensable recommendation from the office of the Auroville Foundation, I am yet to see protests emanating from the leaders of the Galaxy group on this unfair pressure exerted on their supposedly Aurovilian brothers and sisters.
I want to share here a story told by the architect of the Auroville Foundation Act, Kireet Joshi, to show how far we have gone from the very spirit of this Act.
On 17 November 1980, the Indian Parliament was to meet. Around mid-October, Kireet is suddenly called by Indira Gandhi –who was the then Prime Minister– to a Cabinet meeting (with the main ministers of the Central Government). Kireet rushed out of his office to attend, but when he arrived the meeting had already began. R.K. Dhawan, Indira’s personal secretary informed her that Kireet had arrived. She asked for his presence. When Kireet entered the room, Indira Gandhi asked him to take a seat next to her – a huge honor for a simple functionary who is not supposed to attend a Cabinet meeting since those are restricted to Cabinet members only. She tells him: “Kireetji, please take a seat and talk to them about Auroville.” Kireet then explained the Auroville situation to all the ministers and at the end of this presentation and the brief discussion that followed (some ministers friends of Navajata tried to intervene in favor of the SAS but they were rapidly contradicted by other ministers like Vasant Sathe) there was an agreement on the fact that the ordinance project prepared by the Law Minister was faulty on one point: the fact that the residents of Auroville were nowhere in the picture. Narasimha Rao, the then Foreign Affairs minister, declared, “We should not give the impression of wanting to introduce the control of the government in Auroville. We therefore have to amend the ordinance.” Indira did not say anything but turned towards Kireet and told him: “Do the necessary.” She then left the meeting.
The same evening, Kireet worked with Mr. Peri Shastri who was Secretary at the Law Ministry. Very quickly, in a few minutes, they agreed on the concept of an International Advisory Council, an idea of Kireet, with the following definition:
The International Advisory Council of Auroville will be composed with more than five members named by the Central Government.
The Central Government will choose the International Advisory Council’s members amongst personalities they deem dedicated to the ideals of human unity, peace and progress.
The Council, on its own initiative or in reference to a request made by the Central Government, can give its advice to the Central Government on any subject connected to the development and administration of Auroville.
By addressing its comments to the Central Government, the Council will try to ensure that:
- the ideals for which Auroville has been created are encouraged;
- the freedom to grow and to develop activities and institutions for the accomplishment of the aspirations and programs envisaged in the Auroville’s Charter is maintained for the residents of Auroville.
The next morning, Kireet showed the concept to Indira Gandhi. She immediately approved it and asked him to show it to other ministers. Kireet went to see Narasimha Rao who approved it and then Shiv Shankar, who was then the Law Minister and who also approved it (of course they were aware that Indira had already approved it.) Then the Ordinance was to be sent to the Cabinet’s Secretariat.
(from Genesis of the Auroville Foundation Act, Auroville Press Publishers, 2014)
This was for the first Auroville Ordinance of November 1980 which became an Act in December of the same year. In November 1982, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Act against the challenge of the SAS.
The same provision for an International Advisory Council came in the 1988 Auroville Foundation Act with the important difference that the IAC advice is to be addressed to the Governing Board of the Foundation, no longer directly to the Central Government. Nevertheless the spirit of the provision remain the same, the IAC advice is meant to maintain the freedom of the residents to grow and to develop activities and institutions for the accomplishment of the aspirations and programs envisaged in the Auroville’s Charter.
It is therefore clear that the spirit of the Auroville Foundation Act is to insure that the Aurovilians are free to develop activities and programs towards the realization of the Charter of Auroville. This was also very much insisted upon in the presentation made by the then minister introducing the Auroville Foundation Bill in 1988, and we had been told by eminent lawyers that the presentation of a bill in Parliament is quite important when it comes to interpret the provisions of the Act later on. The idea that the administration of the Auroville Foundation can dictate actions and programmes is wrong and misleading. As the Mother repeatedly said, collaboration is the true way for Auroville. But it implies mutuality and plasticity in day to day relations — which are sorely missing and cannot be replaced by endless encounters whose results have been quite invisible.
The only truly hopeful and genuine effort so far are the Dreamweaving sessions. Anyone watching these would understand that the outcome of such gigantic, patient and perseverant work and research of many participants and experts will not be able to be summarized in a perfectly circular crown road with twelve radials and a circular outer ring. It would have to be something else, yet to be found. But for me those sessions are the true and only “peace meetings”