Updated: Feb 14, 2022
We have reached a stage where many people are expressing that they are confused. So much is being thrown around, so many claims being made, that they can't follow it anymore or figure out how to assess arguments.
So to clarify the most important point again: this is a legal battle and nothing else. About who owns Auroville, who can 'run' it. Who has the legal right to take the decisions here? This is a fight that Aurovillage has no chance of winning.
Loads of emotional stuff is being spread, idiotic and delusional as well as really touching and beautiful. As I said before, it's got all absolutely nothing to do with trees and forests. Nothing of al that matters in this dispute.
The leaders and defenders of the Aurovillage cult want to put pressure on the judges of their desperate case by influencing the public opinion. As an ordinary fight over power will not rouse much enthusiasm, and as they have no chance of winning on purely legal grounds, they try to incite big emotional reactions by pretending that this is about something much bigger: a fight of good versus evil, dark asuras against the forces of light, David against Goliath, “old” city versus “new” ecovillage, an outdated consumerist lifestyle against “futuristic” green living. And also, a “true and flexible spirituality” against an extremist and rigid cult. (Always blame the other side with your crime, a super tactic used since millennia. I'm obviously blamed for doing exactly thàt, so everyone is left to figure out for themselves who they believe/feel/think/sense is closer to the truth. I've given my definition of a cult in episode 9, and anyone is free to gauge to what extent it applies to each side or person.) The fact is that all that emo-drama and spiri-tragedy is completely irrelevant. What it all boils down to is that the Aurovillagers, through the Residents' Assembly, a body mentioned in the Auroville Foundation Act, are challenging the legality of the actions of the Governing Board, another body of the Auroville Foundation Act – and effectively the one with the legal authority.
So the real issue is: what actually is stipulated in this famous Auroville Foundation Act of 1988? Since it is written in legalese, many pretend that it can be interpreted in different ways. However, it is a short document that is not so hard to understand. It sets the legal details for the transfer of all assets and rights pertaining to Auroville from the Sri Aurobindo Society (SAS) to the Government of India, which in turn gives the powers to manage those to the Auroville Foundation (part of the Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education of the Government of India), which is created through this Act. The main misunderstanding – being spread all over – stems from the fact that the Act lists three “authorities” that constitute the Auroville Foundation: the Governing Board (GB), the Residents' Assembly (RA) and the International Advisory Council (IAC). This simple listing, one after the other, gives people the impression that they are equally important or powerful. This is a rather silly assumption, and is not the case at all. A list of ingredients does not imply that all of the ingredients are used in the same quantity. Everybody understands that.
When reading the actual 'rights' of these three bodies, it is very clear that the Governing Board (officers not living in Auroville and appointed for specific terms by the Central Government) – as its name clearly implies – actually GOVERNS Auroville. The Residents' Assembly (a group representing all the residents) ADVISES the Governing Board and IS CONSULTED BY the Governing Board, obviously because the residents have the experience of the daily life by living here. The International Advisory Council (five persons of international repute appointed by the Central Government) – again as its name clearly says – also ADVISES the Governing Board, so that the Governing Board, and nobody else, can make the proper decisions for the manifestation and functioning of Auroville.
The wording of the Act makes it clear that the Governing Board has the power to make decisions in Auroville: the word “powers” is not used at all for the Residents' Assembly, but only for the Governing Board or the Central Government. (And the International Advisory Council gets one power: to organise itself according to its wishes.)
But exactly this part is the heart of the fight: the Aurovillagers contend that the Residents' Assembly's advising role has to be interpreted as being a deciding role, at least on a par with the Governing Board. They claim that the Governing Board cannot take decisions without the consent of the Residents' Assembly.
That is a misreading of the Act, which clearly gives the power to create the regulations for the functioning of the Residents' Assembly and Auroville to the Governing Board, and in turn, gives the power to set the rules by which the Governing Board needs to function to the Central Government.
And it gets worse: the Aurovillagers got furious over the works on the Crown Road, which is part of the realisation of the city and the Master Plan. But the Act clearly mentions the creation and implementation of the actual, physical city: the Residents' Assembly may come up with the Master Plan, that will then have to be approved by the Governing Board, who will then have to make sure it gets realised! The formulation and approval of the Master Plan by the RA, its redaction and approval by the GB all happened around the year 2000. and the 'officialising' (through the publishing in the Gazette of India) happened in 2010 (no idea why it took so long, I think simply oversight). After that, the GB has the duty to make sure it all happens. Which obviously did not. How did we get into this weird situation where decisions are not implemented with impunity?
From the creation of the Auroville Foundation, the Governing Board has been a very absent body that did not use its power at all and left everything – the good, the bad and the ugly – to the Residents' Assembly to sort out. They clearly have stated their decisions, but did not react when nothing actually materialised. This extreme laxity has given the Aurovillagers the belief that in fact, the Governing Board is NOT the legal authority, but the Residents' Assembly is.
In turn, the now glorified “RA” has been totally sucked up by the Aurovillage cult: it's a “democratic” assembly where every adult resident can take part in “decision making”. It sounds nice, but it isn't. Since forever, these meetings are a shouting contest where people repeat themselves ad nauseam, and where respect is only given if one expresses the cult narrative. Anyone who is expressing a critical view is booed or screamed or laughed at. It will be hard to believe for most outsiders (especially Indians), but even the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation was actually booed and shouted at several times in such meetings. Fortunately, these meetings are recorded, and we have proof of how Aurovillage actually “governs” itself, and in what an unbelievable (and unacceptable) uncivilised atmosphere. Almost nobody has a notion of how a meaningful meeting should be conducted, and a culture in which the most basic respect is absent has been allowed to impose itself. It seems like it was in fact encouraged to behave in a low manner. Basic common sense is absent. Stupidity is on display over and over again. Almost nothing is done to guide people into a higher consciousness, a better understanding of how we can manifest something only if we really respect each other (and not just for show).
The new Governing Board has decided to put an end to these decades of dysfunctionality. They took up the power that the Auroville Foundation Act gives them, and launched the materialisation of the decisions that were made long ago by the Residents' Assembly. Decisions that were never implemented and are now not wanted anymore by the present Residents' Assembly. The Aurovillagers didn't want them back then either, but in those days even the Residents' Assembly was a paper tiger: the Aurovillagers decided what actually happened on the ground itself. That was the situation from the start: people in offices and working groups could decide all they wanted, the Aurovillagers, who had just won the battle against the office people of the SAS, wiped their highly spiritual asses with it all. Everybody knew that the Aurovilians who were making the “decisions” were NEVER going to pick a literal physical fight with their “brothers and sisters”. And that resulted naturally in the silly reality that on the ground, whatever was done by the Aurovillagers, was what was happening. (When people give decisions and agreements the middle finger and create in the physical reality the opposite of what is planned, you have no other option than fighting on the physical level. You try to avoid an actual 'fight' by having an unequal amount of physical power to your disposal, by outnumbering the opposition, or by having weapons or authority that makes the opposition face a situation they cannot possibly win. We are now, for the first time since the fight with the SAS, again in the situation where this has become the only option.) Over the past decades, mainly due to the population growth (blocked as much as possible), but also a bit due to a few actual little administrative changes that the old Governing Board pushed through, the situation changed, and the Residents' Assembly became the needed justification for the fact that next to nothing of the Master Plan is realised. The Aurovillagers made sure that they had at least 50% of the voters in their camp, making any “decision making process” result in nothing happening. (Note in passing the insanity that a measly 10% voter turnout is enough to validate the “decision making process”, which means that 6% of the population can "democratically" enforce a decision here!)They did not have to WIN any decisions, since the only thing they wanted was to block any change or development. They simply needed to make sure that no real development proposal got approved by a significant percentage. If you can make sure that any decision remains contested by having the voting result in something close to 50/50, you've won: nothing will actually happen.
And you gain the added bonus of an “official” justification for the fact that nothing happens: “The Residents' Assembly did not approve it! What a pity, so sad. Yet nothing can be done, because the Residents' Assembly is the legal body that makes decisions in Auroville...”
At least, that's what they dream the legal reality is. And yes, how they got it over the past decades. According to the Act, the Governing Board has all the power to govern Auroville. They can consult the RA or get advise from them, but cannot be held hostage by the RA. Therefore the works on the Crown Road were simply decided by the Governing Board and executed by the Secretary.
In order to block those actions, two Indian Aurovilians filed a legal complaint against the Auroville Foundation with the National Green Tribunal. Not to contest the authority of the Governing Board, but to claim that the Auroville Foundation was illegally cutting trees. The National Green Tribunal accepted the case and issued a Stay Order with immediate effect, which is still valid today. If it wasn't for that very court case and Stay Order, the clearing of the Crown Road would have continued. The verdict of the National Green Tribunal is expected any moment now. The two Aurovilians have already announced that if they lose the case, they will go to the Supreme Court. Because if the Supreme Court accepts the case (which is very doubtful), a new Stay Order will be issued. This means that the Aurovillagers win time, during which nothing happens on the Crown Road (every day of no works means a day longer they can live in “their” Aurovillage), but during which also other court cases are being prepared. From everything they say and do, it is obvious that they are going for broke. So they will almost certainly defy the authority of the Governing Board in favour of the Residents' Assembly in court – if they can find one that accepts the case.
Which proves that, yes, that's what this is. A legal battle over power. Nothing else.