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Aurovillage 46

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Well, well, well.

Here I was, thinking this series was over, it had served its purpose, and Auroville and the Aurovillagers had moved on. Was I wrong again.

To get clarity on what is now happening and which supposedly “great injustice” is being done here – in case you somehow still fall for that “poor us, poor us” propaganda nonsense –, let me put a few things in a row. You can verify these facts for yourself, they are publicly available.

  • On December 10th, 2021, the National Green Tribunal issues a “Stay Order” on the clearing of the Crown Road works, as a case against the Auroville Foundation was filed by two Indian Aurovilians, Navroz Modi and Sandeep Vinod, requesting that the development of Mother's city and the Galaxy Master Plan be legally blocked, claiming that Auroville is a “deemed forest” which India needs to protect from any other development.

  • On this same December 10th, 2021, the work that was being done was the clearing of the Darkali part of the Crown Right of Way. This was being blocked by sitting in front and on/in the JCBs, making it impossible for the work to move forward without police interference or otherwise physical action. The Stay Order halted this work, originally until December 17th, then it was extended until December 21st, then until January 3rd, 2022, then until January 10th, and so on all the way until the verdict was given on April 28th, 2022.

  • This verdict requires the Auroville Foundation to obtain an Environmental Clearance in order to continue the implementation of the Galaxy Master Plan. But, and this is very important, it allows the Crown works to continue, on the condition that a Joint Committee is formed including the District Collector and officers of the IFS, the Indian Forest Service. The verdict was hailed by the rebellious faction as a complete victory, the vindication of reason and truth over falsehood.

  • In June 2022 the Joint Committee was formed and in July the members visited Auroville and Darkali multiple times, documenting and assessing the situation in Darkali. (It can be noted that several of the members of the documenting team expressed their astonishment that an actual NGT case had been filed over this totally insignificant speck of land, that has no particular ecological value whatsoever, being ridiculously small and having no remarkable features as a “forest” at all.) The trees on the planned Crown Road were marked with number tags and mapped.

  • In August 2022, the Joint Committee gave its report, which clearly gives instructions as to how to proceed with the Crown Road: the width has to be reduced slightly, most of the trees on the reduced Right of Way are to be cut, and certain trees to be transplanted. The claimed special “water catchment bodies” were considered not special at all, and should be simply replaced with other water pits dug somewhere else.

The report was leaked by the Stand for Auroville Unity website before it had been officially submitted to the NGT. As the outcome was obviously not to the liking of the self-aggrandising Aurovillagers, they immediately started to discredit the report and the members of the Joint Committee. Every person that is not furiously agreeing with their claims of ownership and magnificent expertise and grandiose achievements of ecological expertise is obviously a dark person at the service of falsehood and ego, or corrupted by bribes. Aurovillage cannot and will not be allowed to be considered “ordinary” or worse! 5 decades of propaganda have bent reality into a delusion bubble from which there is no escape apparently.

All kinds of idiotic claims are being made about the report to somehow spread the idea that the report has no meaning or value. The NGT verdict is being interpreted as per their “expert” wishful thinking, and of course the report should have been different and included other locations of the Crown, even though they went to court over the Darkali stretch as that was where the work was stopped. It's no use making a report over the stretch in the former Youth Centre, as the clearing there was finished. But they claim that nothing can happen, mainly because that's what they wanted to be the outcome of the NGT court case: a full scale shredding of the Auroville Master Plan, of Roger's Galaxy which was created together with the Mother and on display at the inauguration of Auroville in 1968. The National Green Tribunal itself is being slandered with being biased and corrupt, and the Aurovillagers assert that they are the only experts on any legal matter regarding Auroville: whatever they say is how the legal situation is, whatever they claim is how things have to be, Auroville is theirs and theirs alone, beyond the physical and mental grasp of anybody outside of their cult.

At the beginning of March 2023, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has begun to lay the concrete slabs on the Crown Road, starting in the former “Youth Centre” area. In a first phase, CPWD will pave the eastern half of the Crown. At the same time, preparations are made for the paving of the western half, which passes through the Mahasaraswati Park, through the infamous plot of land formerly called Darkali. This is of course the part that was blocked from clearing by the NGT Stay Order.

In the afternoon of March 9th, 2023, some members of the ATDC (Auroville Town Development Council), who are tasked by the Governing Board with the implementation of the Master Plan, went with two local tree cutters to start the clearing according to the report of the Joint Committee. The trees needed to be identified and located and checked against the list and the map, which is obviously time-consuming. After the first few trees were cut, Natasha (whose Writ Petition claiming that the ATDC is not a legal body was shredded by the Madras High Court) showed up and went to the worker with the chainsaw, putting her hand on the machine to physically block the work from taking place. There were more than enough persons on site to physically stop her from coming close, and in any normal circumstance she would never be allowed to do such an idiotic action, but we already know that any and all physical action from our side is immediately screamed about as “violence” against the “poor victims” and “peaceful protesters”. Of course, in the following minutes, more of the anti-Auroville gang showed up, first of all Tanisha, who became a newcomer thanks to her willingness to protest over the past year at the Youth Centre while she was still a volunteer already many months ago. Tanisha, whose boyfriend Maël only a good week ago was forced to leave India after receiving a Quit Notice, seems emotionally unstable and wanting to take revenge: she's ready to do whatever the cult leaders ask of her, and even more, in order to sabotage the Auroville Foundation and the new Secretary and Governing Board. She was much more violent and daring even than Natasha already was, creating a ridiculously dangerous situation when she started harassing one of the young men who was cutting a young tree, in an attempt to take control over the chainsaw. Tom G. was very quickly on the scene also, but now that Maël (one of the key figures behind the “Stand for Auroville Unity” propaganda campaign and clearly proudly enjoying his prominent rise in Auroville over the past year) was forced to leave India, the foreigners are advised by the cult leaders to not take any risk and physical action, but just “stand by” and vocally harass us. The numbers of their active members are dwindling, people are leaving Auroville and the participation in their activism is much less than it was a year ago: if more of their core members are being sent out of India, their campaign, which is already petering out, will quickly collapse. So the Westerners are no longer participating in the physical obstruction of the ongoing works. And because in India, it is still quite a step for local men to touch unknown women, the Aurovillagers have now recruited every Indian woman they can find who is willing to give up her life in Auroville for the cult. For some strange reason, there are not many takers: they have over the past three days not managed to get more than some 7-8 women who were willing or blackmailed to risk it all and to violently interfere with the work of the tree-cutters.

Auroville's own “Security Service” was present, at first only Matthieu, who pretended to ensure safety. However, it was obvious that he had no intention at all to ensure safety, and had no problems with Natasha or Tanisha running up to the running chainsaws, but was concerned only with the workers with the chainsaws and the members of the ATDC not doing anything against Natasha or Tanisha. In which other place on earth would security personnel allow unauthorised outsiders to come close to tree-cutting works and put their hands on the workers and the chainsaws? It's too absurd to even pretend this has anything to do with “security” or “safety”.

Obviously, with the members of the ATDC and the workers not wanting to go into any physical confrontation, and with the “Auroville Security Service” (in the end comprising of some 7-8 persons) only interested in helping the protesters block the work, nothing further could be done that day. The next day, late in the morning, a team of CPWD horticultural experts arrived from Chennai, two experts together with two tree cutters. A small delegation of opposition was waiting for them, trying to block the entrance to the plot, including Krishna D. Krishna had filed a Writ Petition against an old Office Order appointing members to the ATDC who are no longer in the ATDC anyway, the verdict of which was clubbed together with two other WPs, and which is presently under appeal and thus not valid – not that it matters anyway as the Office Order dealt with a situation that no longer exists. While the CPWD team was preparing for the task and assessing the situation, Krishna jumped out of the entrance-blocking line and went to the car. She had spotted the bag with the chainsaw and ropes that was being offloaded, and simply put herself on top of it. Natasha joined her and then Sandeep (yes, the guy that initiated the NGT court case together with Navroz) added himself in to the human pile on the bag. A fourth person joined in a bit later, apparently someone volunteering in Auroville who was not known to most people. The tree cutters were obviously taken aback, first thought it was a joke, and after a bit of time asked to just give the bag back and let them do the work. Obviously, to no avail: once again, as always, as in fact since 50 years, the Aurovillagers stole something that wasn't theirs and were not willing to give it back: one is forced to pry it from their hands physically while they fight with all their might to hold on to it.

The hours passed, the site was inspected by the horticulture experts, discussions were held at the Foundation Office about what could be done, food and drinks were brought to the bag-snatchers, and finally, almost four hours later, the bag was suddenly abandoned as if it had turned into toxic waste. The loyal cult members had been informed that the police were on their way. Sandeep vanished, the non-local Indian women went to the entrance of the plot, and the Chennai team returned and finally got their bag with tools back.

The police arrived on the scene, and when the Chennai team, under the eyes of a handful of police officers, wanted to enter the location with their tools, they were blocked by the same Indian women forming a human chain in front of the entrance. And then the so typical and by now so old, so boring, so predictable and so utterly stale tactic of endless nonsensical discussion started. This has been one of their main tactics since forever: because keeping the situation frozen, having a status quo with no change, is what they want, they attempt to bore every person who wants to change anything to death with never-ending, eternal, merry-go-round, never concluding discussion. Endlessly jumping from “but the Forest Group needs to approve this” (because clearly, the world-renowned Auroville Forest Group is a way higher authority than the Indian National Green Tribunal), to “this needs a community process” to “we already have a road here” to “there is another proposal that needs to be implemented”: the 1970s with all their immaturity and irrationality are still being re-enacted in Auroville, over and over and over again, ad nauseam. I will give you the gist of the argumentation with which Induja harassed and wasted the time of the horticultural expert from Chennai:

  • There is no clarity in what is happening here

    • So go to the office and get clarity there

  • But you can see here the road that we have made

    • The NGT has given its verdict, go to discuss all of this in the office instead of blocking us from doing our work

  • We need to see a Work Order

    • Here is the report of the Joint Committee

  • That's not a Work Order

    • It says all there is to say about this!

  • You need to show a Work Order

    • The Work Order is given to me, I have to implement the report of the Joint Committee

  • We need to see the Work Order, we want to make sure everything is legal

    • All is as legal as can be, do you think the Joint Committee is a joke?

  • You need to show us the Work Order

    • No I don't

  • Yes you do, I am an Aurovilian

    • You are supposed to follow the laws of India and not obstruct government officials doing their work

  • We need to see a signed document

    • The report of the Joint Committee is signed by the authorities

  • It needs the signature of the Collector

    • Here: the Collector has signed this report!

  • It's the signature of the former Collector, there now is a new one

    • What on earth does that matter? The Collector that was in office at the time of the signing of the report signed it! How can a future Collector sign a document in the past??

  • All these documents have no value in Auroville, we work with community processes

    • ??

The level of bull-shitting these people dare throw around in the name of spirituality is out of this world. I kid you not: they were actually shouting “WE are the Foundation! WE are the Foundation!” at one point. They are Auroville, they are the Auroville Foundation, they are the ultimate authority here. The kings of the castle. Anybody else has no place here, and no jurisdiction: it belongs to them!

The Aurovillagers wanted to pass a whole “report of their own” to the Superintendent of Police, who luckily was not having any of it. After a lot of phone calls during which the avalanche of verbal diarrhoea came down on the poor Chennai team, the police took one person into custody. Remarkably, this was that one non-Aurovilian who had been part of the persons hijacking the bag with tools.

It was by now 4 o'clock and the Chennai team decided to call it a day, seeing clearly that nothing was possible in this situation. They would consult their superiors and wait for orders.

Comes Saturday March 9th, 2023.

The only option left to get the work done, was to simply outnumber the Aurovillagers, just as had been needed in December 2021 for the clearing of the Crown right-of-way through what was called “Bliss Forest” and “Youth Centre” (these names and their activities have nothing to do with the Galaxy Master Plan and as such will disappear quite soon).

To help with the ease of the identification of the trees to be cut, a few members of the ATDC technical staff had been sent in the very early morning to mark the trees that needed to be cut. Due to the very fast growth of creepers and bushes here, most of them thorny, it was a difficult task to reach the hundreds of trees and find the numbers.

Before 7 o'clock, a large group of men and women from one of the nearby villages came, including several tree-cutters with chainsaws. But the plan had been leaked already in the evening, and the cult leaders had launched a call to come in large numbers to try to outnumber the villagers. Foreigners once again were advised to not take any physical action.

The cult clearly is losing its grip on Auroville. Despite the call, there were not many more Indian women than the day before, just the same ones doing the dirty work of chasing after the men with the chainsaws and grabbing a hold of the machines. Once again, Tanisha proved the most tenacious. But the Indian female activists were way too few against too many local people. The chaos at the start was immense. The “Auroville Security” team was present, once again clearly to “protect” the attacking women from – from what exactly? The result of their own aggression? They were so nasty in their actions that the village women, who tried to make human chains and convince them to drop it all, ended up being very discouraged having to face so much physical anger. There was no talking to these persistent chain-snatchers, and they clearly had no time for people without chainsaws.

In one crazy moment, I tried to help the men gain control over their machine again, which was an insanely difficult task: several of the non-local Indian women had clutched this one chainsaw, desperately pulling on it. They promised the men to let go of it if they came out of the Darkali area. To nobody's suprise, that turned out to be another lie, and outside of the gate, Tanisha clung to the chainsaw as if her life depended on it. She clutched it and threw herself to the ground, making it seem as if the two men she was fighting with were the perpetrators and she the victim. Yes, nothing has changed since December 2021: same old, same old.

I had followed and tried to film what was going on. Near-hysterical, Induja – who was obviously part of the core “useful idiots” – suddenly started screaming that the men were drunk. This was as ridiculous as anything could be: it was early morning, the men were here to work, there was no smell of alcohol anywhere and the men had been very normally discussing and asking to let go of the machine and let them go to work. Funnily enough, both Induja and Tanisha gave themselves away by claiming that they could SEE the drunkenness, while everybody knows from experience that the smell is the most obvious sign of being drunk, very easily noticeable when you're standing so closely, fighting over a chainsaw and breathing into each other's faces for several minutes. Having seen first-hand how such claims are being made up out of thin air in total desperation, and then endlessly repeated by the cult propaganda outlets, gives me a clear insight in what happened in December 2021, where they made the exact same claims to discredit the local villagers who had come to help out and get the work done in the former Youth Centre area.

At this moment, the fighting over this particular chainsaw was happening outside of the fenced-off Darkali area, and there were quite a few staunch Aurovillagers, Westerners, standing and filming the event. They obviously wanted Tanisha and Induja to win the fight, and were trying to help them in whatever way they could, without putting their visas at risk. From their own recordings, I learned later that they failed, even though they “negotiated” that they would leave the guys alone if the guys left with their chainsaw. Something absurd like that anyway. One more aspect of the spirit of Aurovillage: you just leave us alone or we will make your life hell.

Without me noticing it, I was suddenly “alone” among the “enemy”, as the two local village men were occupied constantly trying to get Tanisha to let go of their chainsaw without actually having to hurt her in any way.

The group consisted of the usual suspects: Dorle, Auradha, Aurore, Sophie, Marco S. and his wife Dominique, and Céline, which surprised me a lot as I had always had a good contact with her, and is not someone who I expect to take part in such a rebellion. She even wore a scarf to make her less easily identifiable. Dorle by the way had completely disguised herself with scarfs and sunglasses, but well, impossible to not recognise her, she's one of the central “pillars” in the “battle for the past to endure” and simply always present. She sent out a message to the cult's oppressed subjects, scolding them for not showing up and letting others “take the risk”.

Out of the blue, and to my utter surprise as they were supposed to not take any physical action, Aurore, who had run up to me without me seeing it until it was too late, grabs and pulls my arm, forcing me to turn and step aside in order not to fall. Auradha overbids her, grabs my arms and does not let go of me anymore: she drags me away. I try to keep filming but it's very hard, Auradha has only one aim: remove me from the scene. As it turns out, Dorle's footage of the assault was put on social media and we can clearly hear Aurore launch the attach by saying “Let's take Lieve out”.

I struggle to get my freedom back (I'm really a very bad street-fighter), all the while trying to keep filming the insanity of what Tanisha is doing with the chainsaw. Tanisha, true to her mission of “playing the victim”, screams “stop stop stop”, while obviously, the ONLY thing the men are asking for is is exactly that these mad women stop all this drama and fighting and let them go to work. WITH their chainsaw, which is clearly essential equipment if you're a tree-cutter. Matthieu once again runs to the rescue of the totally fake “damsel in distress”, and completely ignores my screams that I am being manhandled by Auradha. Nothing surprising at all, 'cause let's face it: his priority was to help and protect the protestors, not the people that were attacked by the protestors.

Auradha finally releases my arms, but keeps moving in front of me to prevent me to join the scene where Tanisha gives the performance of her lifetime. I raise my arms (I've got a positive ape-index, meaning that I have seriously long arms) to be able to record what's happening there, have to concentrate to zoom in and point the phone in the right direction, and suddenly, once again out of the blue, my phone is snatched out of my hands and thrown something like ten metres further. Sophie had come up to me from the back, and taken part in the “take Lieve out” plan of action. Auradha immediately grabs me again, to prevent me from running to my phone. She urges several people to go pick it up and erase the footage, but one of the Auroville road guards just at that moment passes by on his motorbike. I shout out to him that that is MY phone and that (I don't remember who was going towards it) should not be allowed to have it, and I ask him to get it for me. The man is clearly very confused, and doesn't know what to do. These men, who can be seen every day on certain points on the Auroville roads, are working under – you guessed it – the “Auroville Security” team, and it was obvious that they had been instructed by their bosses to be on the side of the protestors. All these guys know my face of course, and are generally super friendly with me. Now this guy was totally at a loss as to what was happening here and what he should or should not do. He simply did nothing and drove by, probably to report for duty with Matthieu.

Enters Michelle, another mentally unstable person who swore allegiance to the cult and has no qualms with lying in the face of all contradictory evidence . In fact, she did not actually “enter”, but came out of the gate of Darkali, clearly called in by Tanisha and Induja's hysterical theatre show. Michelle scans the situation, decides that Lieve's phone seems a very interesting bounty, and goes to pick it up. Luckily,out of nowhere, Naren, a Foundation staff member and one of the very few persons the Aurovillagers respect (or fear?) somewhat, comes into view and walks up to here. He gets my phone (miraculously unbroken) from Michelle, Auradha quickly lets go of me, pretending nothing ever happened, and I can go on with documenting the insanity of what ought to be a very ordinary clearing of the right-of-way of a road that was planned in 1968.

Back inside the Darkali compound, the chaos is still quite serious. Krishna N., Riju, Natasha and Krishna D. are doing all they can to fulfil their mission to prevent any and all tree cutting, no holds barred. They turn the situation in a total mess, screaming, shouting, crying, trying to persuade all the village people that they are totally wrong and doing very bad things, and endlessly chasing and threatening the men with the chainsaws. They make everybody very nervous, as nobody wants any accident to happen, but the rebels constantly try to create extremely dangerous situations. Quite quickly though, these rebel women drop off one by one, as they are stopped by the village men who hold up small trees as barriers. The cat-and-mouse game – in which the “Auroville Security” team actively participates – lasts for quite some time, until finally, all of them have to accept defeat. There are too many things happening at the same time, there are too many men and boys blocking the way to the chainsaws, and frankly, the terrain is way too messy and overgrown to really be able to run without breaking a leg. On top of it, quite a police force came onto the scene, which probably, finally, brought some of them a bit to their senses.

Finally, after two days, real work is happening. There are still a lot of opposition members around, but they cannot stop the work anymore, it's too late and they clearly have lost the plot. They still try to harass whomever they can, verbally, and try to pull us into their nonsensical discussions (which they eagerly film – everything we say WILL be used against us, after all!), but the clearing is getting done. After a tea-break, they finally mostly leave the site, and the work can now start for reals. Calmly, trees are identified and checked against the list, and some discrepancies are noted: have the numbers, placed by the Forest Rangers in July, been tampered with? As they are only tied to the trees with tiny pieces of rope, all is possible. In any case, not all the trees on the list were found in situ, but that will be taken care of later, when the whole stretch is cleared. Right now, there are fallen trees everywhere and the place is even less accessible than it was a day ago.

By one o'clock, the job that should have taken only half a day, but took more than two, was done.

So what now? Cleaning up will take some time, and then a number of trees need to be transplanted. When that's done, we will finally see the curve of the Crown make its way through the Mahasaraswati Park, and join the Language Lab. Lots of work still to do be done, let's pray that the Aurovillagers are finally going to see that all resistance is futile. Don't hold your breath though. The insanity of what happened over the past few days does not predict a sudden influx of rationality.

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