Processes, Rights & Trees Bulldozed
This website aims to contribute to the community-aligned campaign – Stand for Auroville Unity – and provides resources to help people understand the current conflict around urban development in Auroville.
Stay order extended till January 3rd, 2022
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Our mission was born in the Kalabhumi meeting (5 December), where at least 500 people signed a statement calling for peaceful, collective solutions to the conflict, and has since snowballed to become a campaign with wide community and global support. We aim to provide information in the most factual possible way.
What is going on in Auroville?
The current conflict in Auroville is a complex combination of issues: urban town planning, environmental issues, Auroville’s unique governance structure, spiritual beliefs, and the recent silencing of residents.
Despite strong efforts of the community to collaborate on urban planning with Auroville authorities over past months, the authorities began sudden bulldozing in two community sites on December 4, without the necessary Work Orders. The aggressive measures continued over the coming days, with some violent scenes, hired enforcers and 900 trees lost. A court Stay Order is now in place until 3 Jan 2022. See our timeline of events.
What is Auroville?
Auroville is an international township in Tamil Nadu, with about 3500 residents from 58 countries. It is globally recognised for its achievements in the fields of ecological agriculture, reafforestation, renewable energies, sustainable architecture, educational practices, collective living and social enterprise. Based on the evolutionary vision of Indian philosopher and poet Sri Aurobindo, and founded by the Mother in 1968, Auroville is endorsed by UNESCO as an experiment in human unity. See more.
What is the Master Plan?
In the 1960s, the Mother worked with French architect Roger Anger, to develop a galaxy model for Auroville as a ‘city of the future’. After Mother’s time, this concept was developed over the years into a Master Plan (1999, 2001), which is more of a conceptual or policy framework, to begin planning. The Master Plan is now 20 years old. It lacks the required Detailed Development Plans (DDPs) which are needed for implementation, and needs to be updated to take into account the present-day ground realities and environmental concerns.
A number of Auroville residents with expertise in town planning have – in the spirit of collaboration – conducted studies and offered their expertise to authorities.
What is the conflict about?
The current conflict centres around differing interpretations of the implementation of Auroville’s Master Plan policy framework. Residents largely believe that destruction and development should not take place until the Detailed Development Plans have been completed. The community has requested Auroville’s Town Development Council (ATDC) to collaborate with the community in a meaningful way.
The ATDC and newly-appointed government authorities in Auroville want to rapidly develop the Crown way, which is a proposed 4km circular road. Events escalated in recent weeks, even though two Auroville communities on the Crown way (Darkali, Bliss) had presented their alternative development proposals to ATDC. These alternative proposals showed how the Crown concept could be respected whilst preserving precious forest and water catchment systems that are vital to the whole bioregion. The ATDC – which lacks planning expertise and contains some members appointed in questionable processes – ignored these proposals
What are the environmental concerns?
Auroville is renowned globally for its reafforestation initiatives. Over the last 50 years, the land has been transformed from a barren plateau to a thriving forest ecosystem that spans over 1340 acres, and contains three million trees. In particular, the forests have revived the indigenous Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF), which is a rare type of forest found only in the south-east seaboard of India. Auroville has also developed sophisticated water catchment systems, which aim to contribute to the wider bioregion’s water security, which is under extreme threat. The current authorities’ rapid urban development agenda does not consider these issues, and no formal Environmental Impact Assessment was done before the bulldozing started.
What is Auroville’s decision-making process? How is its governance unique?
Auroville functions under a unique legal framework, enacted by the Indian Parliament: the Auroville Foundation Act (1988). The Act recognises the decision-making role of the Residents’ Assembly (which consists of about 2500 adults). The Residents’ Assembly and government-appointed Governing Board (represented in Auroville by the Secretary and Office of the Auroville Foundation) are meant to work in harmony together, while being interdependent. The Act aims to ensure that there is a balance of power and responsibilities between them. For example, in relation to the Master Plan, it’s understood that neither body has the right to veto the other; decisions should be integrated and brought to cohesion.
However, in recent months, the Office of the Auroville Foundation has overridden residents’ concerns and the ongoing collaboration on compromises, and is now forging ahead with its selective interpretation and imposition of the Master Plan, and rapid urban development that is not collaboratively-planned or ecologically sensitive. The Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly, a group of seven residents whose role is to “assist the Residents’ Assembly in carrying its duties” (reference needed), currently has some members who seem to privilege an authoritarian approach over the inclusive and participatory community processes.
Auroville’s spiritual beliefs
Auroville is based on the evolutionary vision of Indian philosopher and nationalist Sri Aurobindo. It was started in 1968 by Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, the Mother, who conceived Auroville as an experiment in human unity. People from all races and creeds live in Auroville, and are free to live the concept of human unity as they see fit. Many residents take inspiration from the Matrimandir, a meditation chamber (with no iconography) and peaceful gardens in the centre that some regard as the ‘soul’ of Auroville, which aims to support the manifestation of a new consciousness.
In recent years, a few community members have developed more extreme views about the Mother’s wish to build a ‘city of the future’. They believe that manifestation of the city must adhere strictly to a geometry in the Master Plan (developed long after Mother’s time), and that execution of the Crown as a ‘perfect circle’ is essential to hasten Auroville’s spiritual development, in line with Mother’s vision, as they see it. This crystallised view of the future city contrasts with the approach of many community members who believe that a ‘city of the future’ should be flexible enough to evolve with time and the challenges of the contemporary world, and that this is in fact what the Mother intended and instructed. To make matters worse, these underlying disagreements appear to be purposefully amplified by some, to serve disparate agendas.
Silencing Freedom of Speech
On December 7, Outreach Media – Auroville’s long-standing community service that liaises with external media – was notified by the Auroville Foundation that it should “refrain from issuing any statements until further notice”. The Foundation announced that it had appointed two “Official Spokespersons”, without any consultation with the community.
Other aspects of the conflict
There are other aspects to the conflict that are too complex to go into here, including the shadow of larger political agendas, economic aspects, outside land prospecting, and cultural differences within Auroville, which have intensified this difficult situation.
In short, the current conflict in Auroville is complex! You may find some articles on the ‘In the Press’ page, that synthesise some of the aspects in a way that makes sense to you.
This website aims to provide some resources to make the conflictual situation more understandable.
While the content on this website aims to give the perspective of 500+ residents (who signed the Kalabhumi statement on 5 December), the content aims to be as factual as possible.
If you want to support the community’s call for non-violent, sustainable, collaborative urban planning, please follow us on social media and sign the petition: https://linktr.ee/helpauroville
In the Press
AUROVILLE CHARTER Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and...
By AV Council (AVC) , 28 Jun 2022 / 01:27 pm Dear Community, We are all shocked by the continued and aggressive attempts at appropriating many of Auroville's executive and managerial positions, including the memberships of some of our groups (eg: WCom, ATDC, FAMC,...
Genesis of the Auroville Foundation Act Talk by Alain Bernard on January 2010 This talk tells the story of the genesis of a very important event for Auroville as this Act, voted by the Indian Parliament in 1988, gave a legal status to Auroville. It is still the basis...
COMPETING NARRATIVES by Rod Hemsell There is a popular pattern of critical thinking in philosophy today, initiated especially by French intellectuals in the 1970s, that reduces all points of view expressed publicly through language to “narratives” determined primarily...
Auroville is a place “where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.”
As a member of the Auroville community, I cherish these values and the work we have to do together, whatever the challenges.
I reject violence, threats & actions which undermine community processes and our collective work.
Kalabhumi resolution signed by at least 500 people, 5 December 2021