Updated: Apr 19
If there is one term, one concept that has been abused to death over the past year and a half, it's the “RA”. Nobody remotely interested in Auroville can have missed coming across that acronym.
The wildest claims are being made in the name of the “RA” and if anybody wants to understand anything about Auroville and the changes that are currently happening, it is needed to grasp what this is, and to delve into this mythical creature's past and find out what it is actually made of.
Here again, it is indispensable to read the Auroville Foundation Act from 1988. You can skip all the parts about how the assets and rights of the Sri Aurobindo Society were transferred to the Government of India: all that is part of the Act because the Act regulated the “take-over” of Auroville from the Sri Aurobindo Society by the Government of India, but it has no present value anymore as it all pertained to a one-time and now historical action.
But reading the Chapter about the Foundation and its three components, which each their roles, is absolutely imperative if one wants to know for oneself what the legalities of Auroville are.
If you don't read the text for yourself, you remain stuck in either believing what I write about it, or believing what anybody else writes or says about it, and that is always a position of dependency, which is really not useful.
Please read it here if you haven't read it yet, and then see if you can agree with my explanation, and if it makes it easier for you to understand the text of the Act.
The first point that has to stand out to anybody with some rationality, is that the three “bodies” that make up the Auroville Foundation – the Governing Board, the Residents' Assembly and the International Advisory Council – are NOT equal in power or role or function. Yet, this is the first claim that is made always by the people who have hijacked the term “RA”, and Auroville as a project. They say that the three groups equally share the “power” over Auroville, which is clearly not the case in the Act.
Let us first of all take a step back, and ask the question: what has “power” got to do with Auroville, with the project that the Mother created in the 1960s? Was there any focus on “power” at that time? Why would the issue of who decides things in Auroville be the reason for huge fights, and now for the second time? What kind of decisions need to be made anyway? Why would “power” be needed here? Why would anyone want to have the power to decide what Auroville is or is not?
Early on, the Mother gave a message, which has no date on it. So we don't know when exactly it was given. But the message was for Auroville and the people dealing with it:
To the architects and engineers:
You are not here to discuss the project.
You are here to build the city.
From all the other communications we have from the Mother about Auroville, it is obvious that She expected this to be the attitude for all Aurovilians. She did not invite “all men of goodwill” to Auroville because She had no clue what She was doing and needed advice and ideas. She asked them to come to Her project that She had all worked out, and she wanted them to DO the project of Auroville, to bring it alive and give it a form and expression in the material world. She knew exactly what She wanted Auroville to be. There was no need for huge debates about that, nobody needed to have the power to decide that: it was already decided.
Obviously, the daily practical nitty-gritty needed to be worked out by the people on the ground. But the nitty-gritty of how this city has to provide basic necessities for its citizens who are working in and for the city has nothing to do with whether or not it should be a city at all, or that it should be an ecovillage, and that its aim should be to live in harmony with nature instead of with a lot of anonymous human beings. “Nitty gritty” and “daily life” have nothing to do with deciding that retirees with pensions from abroad should build themselves houses in Auroville, and not work for the running of the city, but nicely enjoy retirement in a place where their money has a lot more value. It has nothing to do with deciding that Aurovilians can set up units that they then “possess” and “own” and run completely independently from the needs of the city and the collective. It has nothing to do whatsoever with deciding that corruption and crime of all sorts can be allowed in Auroville as long as it's swept under the rug and nobody gets to know it is happening.
All that is NOT the nitty-gritty. All of that cuts into the core of the project, and that core was set by the Mother more than half a century ago.
Why would anybody who comes to live in the Mother's Auroville want to have the power to decide about such things? To change all She decided that Auroville has to be? What kind of an Aurovilian is interested in taking Auroville from Her hands, and decide that She is now outdated, and that She was very flexible and would have changed Her mind by now, and exactly in the way that this “Aurovilian” wants so that it suits their needs and desires? Is such a person even an Aurovilian at all?
The Mother gave the task to organise Auroville's administration to the Sri Aurobindo Society. Very shortly after Her passing, the rebellious Aurovillagers started a war against the Society over the power to “administer” Auroville. As they clearly were not interested in any form of proper administration, the only aspect that they cared about was apparently the power to “rule” over Auroville. The power to decide what Auroville is, how it functions and develops. The power to decide what the Mother wanted Auroville to be.
The Mother wanted the nitty-gritty of Auroville to be as undefined as possible, as flexible as possible, so that things can have the space and freedom to find the best possible solution at every moment, without having to conform to any rules or restrictions. This in fact is a bit like the Life Divine, where the higher consciousness simply informs each person of the right action at every moment. If we can reach to a consciousness where we are no longer influenced by petty, selfish and negative impulses, but where we are open to the intuitions and insights that come from above, that benefit the whole, in ways we might initially not be able to see but can trust and accept will be there, because we have no negative intention and only want what the Divine sees as the perfect action: if we can live like that, obviously, all “rules” and “regulations” and “procedures” and “structures” would be impediments and stumbling blocks. So yes, the Mother aimed very high, and wanted to create the space in which human beings with such selflessness and openness for the higher consciousness could bring this Divine Vision into matter. But even She had to quickly adjust Her high hopes and accept that the people She was dealing with were not at all of that calibre. She had to start making petty rules very quickly, and did everything She could to explain what Auroville was, and what it was not.
On March 4th, 1971, She was asked:
Three years ago, you said: “I have been asked what the rules are for life in Auroville. Thank God, as yet there are none. As long as there are none, there is hope.”
In July, again you were telling the young people of Aspiration, “I do not want to make rules for Auroville as I did for the Ashram.” But recently you wrote, “Drugs are prohibited in Auroville.” Has there been a change in your vision of Auroville?
And Her answer was:
Perhaps the Aurovilians have not attained the level of consciousness that is expected of them.
It is clear that Her plans for Auroville were so high up, it would take ages before they would be attained. Why would She then in a few decades, long before any of the ideals set out for Auroville were anywhere near being accomplished, change the whole affair of Auroville and decide that it would be an ecovillage for 3,000 people? Who can believe She would do that? On the contrary, She did everything She could to make the early Aurovilians understand they had the wrong end of the stick in most cases.
From all this, we can easily see that the immense freedom She wanted Auroville to have, was only to give a free reign to a higher consciousness. She never ever intended a lower consciousness to get the full freedom to mess things up, take Auroville for itself and turn it into something else. There was never any need for “power to decide” in Auroville: She wanted the Aurovilians to let the Divine take all the decisions, and have the Aurovilians open themselves to that Power and Wisdom, and be nothing more but an instrument, a willing servitor of that Divine Consciousness.
When we look at these questions, it becomes already doubtful what the motivation of the early Aurovilians was, when they started a fight against the SAS, and – fully against the Mother's directive of “no politics in Auroville“ – went to Delhi to start a huge political campaign to get Auroville for themselves.
But out of that violent conflict was born the Auroville Foundation Act, with its three main bodies who make up the Auroville Foundation.
When reading this document, it should strike everyone that even though this Act had been the result of what was really nothing else than a long and nasty power struggle, the harmonious cooperation of the three bodies seems to have been considered a given, as if it were the most self-evident thing on earth. The possibility of the Governing Board and the Aurovilians not getting along famously seems to be considered an outlandish idea, as if that would really be unthinkable.
Luckily, at least one individual involved in writing the text must have had some sense of reality, and the very last section of the Act, section 34, gives the Government of India the right to “remove the difficulty” if any arises. Oh, and in case stuff really goes south with Auroville, there's also section 22, which gives the Government of India the right to simply dissolve the whole Auroville Foundation and do away with it all. Just in case the whole experiment doesn't work out at all. You never know.
But apart from that, the whole Act seems to assume that the Governing Board and the residents would always work together in total harmony and unity, with the very idea of any disagreement being absurd.
To be honest, given that Auroville is the Mother's project, and that She had very clearly described what Auroville as a project would be, what the setting would be, and what the requirements to live in Auroville are, with as the most specific and fundamental requirement TO WANT TO LIVE AND WORK IN HARMONY WITH ALL OTHERS, obviously avoiding conflicts and disagreements, well yes, if that all is the starting point, how can there ever be a fight between the Governing Board and the Auroville population?
As we see today, somewhere something has gone wrong, because the Governing Board and the dominant faction of the residents are diametrically opposed. From my perspective, it is totally clear how and why this happened: these Aurovillagers were never interested in Mother's Auroville, but simply abused the freedom of this project for petty and selfish benefits, for a very ordinary, colonial life. When now the Governing Board finally decides that enough is enough, and that Auroville is not created for all that lower stuff, and finally takes up its legal role of manager and administrator of the Auroville project, these people freak out in seven colours and instead of accepting the offer of a cooperative endeavour to put Auroville back on the right track, they spit the Governing Board in the face and cry in public that they are victims of a horrible crime.
If someone feels that is a wrong assessment, feel free to explain how else we got here. Make sure that that explanation takes ALL the facts into account, and not like the Stand for Auroville Unity campaign come with an absurd story in which everything here was so peaceful and super, until in July 2021 a wicked witch was catapulted into Auroville by the evil government of a country of 1.3 billion people, but which for some inexplicable reason is hell-bent on starting a huge fight over a few acres with not even 3,000 inhabitants, and wants to turn the little, peaceful, beautiful, harmonious, idyllic, fairy-tale “community” into some psychopathic dictatorship with no love-and-understanding, for no reason at all. That's not an explanation of what is happening here, that is a propaganda story made up of beautiful words and phrases but that has zero connection with the reality here.
Let's now get back to the legal issue of this faction calling itself “the RA”. That is effectively what they do in all their statements: whatever they feel, they think, they want is in their propaganda the feelings, the thoughts, the wishes of “the RA”.
On the surface, many people may fall into that trap and believe that this is a fight between two of the bodies of the Auroville Foundation. It's nowhere near that, but moreover, is it really and legally possible that they appropriate the term “the Residents' Assembly”? What is the RA legally in fact?
The Auroville Foundation Act defines the Residents' Assembly as follows:
The Residents' Assembly shall consist of all the residents of Auroville who are for the time being entered in the register of residents maintained under this section.
“All the residents of Auroville who are for the time being entered in the Register of Residents” is not an easy group to deal with. Even though Auroville is meant to remain a very small city, 50,000 people is still a group that is difficult to club together as one being, one person, with one voice and one wish.
What is obvious from the get-go when one reads the Auroville Foundation Act, is that the reason why the Aurovilians could be grouped together in one body, is that they would not have to take difficult decisions.
Look at the wordings of the Act. First of all, the first “body” of the Auroville Foundation is called “the Governing Board”. This body is given “powers and functions” (see also episode 19), and is given the task to manage Auroville and its assets according to Auroville's Charter, and obviously, according to the wishes and directives of the Mother. When the Act refers to “the Charter”, it cannot refer to the few lines of the Charter as in a vacuum, all by themselves, with everything else the Mother has said about Auroville declared useless and ignorable. That's absurd, and can only be proposed by people with either too little rationality or with too much bad-will.
The Governing Board's task is, in effect, to make sure that Auroville turns into the project the Mother wanted: the city She wanted and the very unique society She wanted, based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the fundamental experience that humanity is ultimately one. This means that all difficult decisions about Auroville, like how to acquire the land, how to build the city, how to organise the society, how to make sure people get their basic needs provided, all these things are for the Governing Board to figure out and make happen. Obviously, the Governing Board can do that in consultation with the residents. If the Aurovilians have great ideas of how to make stuff work for them: let them come forward and make proposals. The Governing Board will then take these into consideration, and take decisions according to their assessment of the proposals. If the Governing Board feels it has better ideas, well, then the Governing Board has the total right and power, legally provided by the Auroville Foundation Act, to decide to ignore the residents' ideas, and implement something else. As long as we move forward towards Mother's Auroville, and not something else.
The Auroville Foundation Act gives no “power” to the Residents' Assembly, only “functions”. It does give a voice and a role to the Aurovilians, and it creates a body in which all Aurovilians have a place, which is why the Residents' Assembly is part of the Auroville Foundation. Very, very obviously, this is not something like a committee, and is certainly not something like the Governing Board. It is an official acknowledgement of the importance of the people who actually live in Auroville, but it is not a handing over of any power to decide about Auroville to these residents. Read the Act carefully: there is absolutely no comparison between the descriptions of the Governing Board and the Residents' Assembly. Trying to claim that in fact all power lies with the Residents' Assembly is not only corrupting the letter and the spirit of the Act, but it also is advocating a total absurdity: how on earth can Auroville become the Mother's project if all major decisions need to be decided by a group of 50,000 people? Even by a group of 5,000 people? Even by 500? It will not work, unless they are all able to connect to the Divine Consciousness and let go of their egos. Which clearly wasn't the case in 1988, when the Act was written. If the Act had intended to give all the “power” over Auroville to the Aurovilians, it would have said so clearly, and not created a “Governing Board” to whom it gives all those responsibilities.
It is evident from the Auroville Foundation Act that the Residents' Assembly is not supposed to take any decision other than who will represent the Aurovilians to the Governing Board. All other “functions” as given by the Act, are minor, and are assumed to be executed in harmony with each other and with the Governing Board. In full acceptance of the reality that the Governing Board will take the decisions, in the best interest of Auroville, as described by the Mother.
As the judge in Natasha Storey's Writ Petition (see episode 48) ruled:
Therefore, the activities which are provided under Section 19 of the Act, which are to be undertaken by the Residents' Assembly, are only in the nature of supplementing, but not supplanting the main power and function vested with the Governing Board under the provisions of the Act.
Anyone with a little sincerity will come to the same conclusion when reading the Act. Here is the whole Section 19, which lists all of the things the Residents' Assembly is supposed to be occupied with:
19. Functions of the Residents’ Assembly.—
(1) The Residents’ Assembly shall perform such functions as are required by this Act and shall advise the Governing Board in respect of all activities relating to the residents of Auroville.
(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the foregoing powers, the Residents’ Assembly may—
(a) allow the admission or cause the termination of persons in the register of residents in accordance with the regulations made under section 32;
(b) organise various activities relating to Auroville;
(c) formulate the master plan of Auroville and make necessary recommendations for the recognition of organisations engaged in activities relatable to Auroville for the approval of the Governing Board;
(d) recommend proposals for raising funds for Auroville for the approval of the Governing Board.
(3) For the purpose of carrying of its functions, the Residents’ Assembly may establish such committees as it may consider necessary which shall represent it in relation to the functions to be performed by the Governing Board.
Functions, no powers. The “foregoing powers” in subsection 2 are those of the Governing Board.
The role of the Residents of Auroville is to DO Auroville, to execute it, to give it life, to embody it. Not to decide what it is or not. As the Mother said: “You are not here to discuss the project.” If that is the legal task of the Aurovilians, then it is obvious that there should never be big issues that the Residents' Assembly has to decide on. If the residents are unhappy with certain decisions of the Governing Board, they should be able to formulate why such decisions are not helping them create Auroville in the way the Mother had directed, and the Governing Board should then adjust its course to make sure that Auroville is helping the Aurovilians become True Aurovilians.
Now back to the question of how a faction of the Aurovilians can claim that what they want is the wish of the Residents' Assembly, meaning ALL Aurovilians. That obviously is also a conundrum that was not supposed to happen in Mother's Auroville.
What else can be found about the “Residents' Assembly” in the Auroville Foundation Act? Here's the full text that describes it:
18. Residents’ Assembly.—
(1) The Residents’ Assembly shall consist of all the residents of Auroville who are for the time being entered in the register of residents maintained under this section.
(2) The Secretary to the Governing Board shall maintain the register of residents in such manner as may be prescribed and all the persons who are residents of Auroville and who are of the age of eighteen years and above are entitled to have their names entered in the register on an application made to the Secretary in such form as may be prescribed.
(3) All the names of residents, which have been included in the register maintained by the Administrator appointed under section 5 of the Auroville (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1980 (59 of 1980) immediately before the appointed day, shall be deemed to have been included in the register maintained under this section.
Once again: that's it. We can see that subsection 3 can be discarded, as it pertains only to the one-time situation of 1988 when the government officially took over Auroville from the Sri Aurobindo Society, and some rules for this transition needed to be made. Subsection 3 defines how the Aurovilians who were living in Auroville at that time were automatically entered in the Register of Residents.
As subsection 2 gives a task to the Secretary, we're left with subsection 1, which was already quoted earlier: there's really nothing else that the Act says about the “RA”. It means ALL of the residents. No matter what kind of interpretation or “democratic” nonsense SOME Aurovilians come up with: the legal definition is ALL the residents, full stop.
That debunks the statement of the rebels that they, and they alone, are the “Residents' Assembly”. They simply cannot claim to speak for everybody. And the Residents' Assembly is everybody. Not just SOME residents. Not even the majority. The text does not speak about “some residents” or “the majority”. Not here, and not anywhere else: go check for yourself.
While we're at it, let's remind ourselves that democracy was not something the Mother valued, and she did not want “democracy” as the way Auroville would be governed. There are long explanations that one can read about how she felt Auroville should “run” itself, but the bottom line is that every resident should be focused on the Divine and on growing in consciousness, on getting rid of their ego, and that the people with the highest consciousness have to be given the power to decide. That didn't really work out early on, and the Auroville Foundation Act solved the problem for the poor Aurovilians, by taking the power away and giving it to the Governing Board. How the Residents' Assembly then makes decisions needs to be seen, but since there should be no big decisions taken, it should not matter much anyway. More importantly, the task of Aurovilians is to find new and harmonious ways of agreement, and not to fall back on elections and voting. As explained in episode 27, the Aurovillagers found ways to little by little make sure that they had some “processes” that they claim are “internal” and “established”, which give some kind of superficial semblance that all residents agree with how the Aurovillagers have been taking all decisions in Auroville over the past decades. However, when anyone looks into the reality of these “processes”, one will see immediately that they have nothing to do with any agreement or acceptance by ALL residents, but that they were simply bullied through and protected from unwanted interference by the residents who did not acknowledge the Aurovillage dictatorship.
A noteworthy point is that the Stand for Auroville Unity propaganda campaign could have used any other term, and in fact, they did, but they quickly settled on claiming loudly that they are “the RA”. That is because, as pointed out before, their strategy is twofold: a media campaign, and a legal battle. For the legal battle, they need to use the legal terms of the Auroville Foundation Act as much as possible, so that they can show these publications in court and show that “public opinion” accepts their completely corrupted definition of “the RA”. That will most probably not work out anyway, but these are desperate people with nothing to lose, and they will try everything they can possibly try to get their power back.
In episode 18, the results of one of their “RAD”s is discussed, and this shows clearly that the Aurovillagers do not represent the majority of Auroville's residents, not by far.
Combining all of this together, it should be clear to everybody that this group cannot legally or rationally prove that their claim to be “the RA” is anything but a false trope, an easy way to deceive people into misunderstanding the situation and sympathising with them. Simply an attempt to cheat and abuse their audience, actually.
If these people were really here for the Charter of Auroville, and to be True Aurovilians, they would be occupied with spiritual progress, with making sure Auroville's daily life is running as smoothly and harmoniously as possible, with building Mother's city and having a centralised organisation that serves all equally, with wholeheartedly cooperating with the Governing Board who wants to help Auroville move forward and become Mother's Dream. But instead they spend all of their time, funds and energy in fighting for the power to rule over Auroville and to do with it as they please.
To round up this episode, let's have a look at their other big battle cry, namely that only “the RA” is legally allowed to decide who can live in Auroville. Once again, it's a corruption of the legal text, and they present it in such a way that people believe the Aurovillagers have the law on their side.
What does the Auroville Foundation Act say, and is there more to the quote they so proudly flaunt around? Here's the relevant part from Section 19 (already quoted in full above):
(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the foregoing powers, the Residents Assembly may-
(a) allow the admission or cause the termination of persons in the register of residents in accordance with the regulations made under section 32;
Once again: notice the word “may”. It is not written like that for no reason. This is not a power, this is not a right, this is not an order that is being given. This is something the RA is allowed to do, or not do, if it doesn't want to.
Please notice the last words: “in accordance with the regulations made under section 32”. For some strange reason, the Aurovillagers never say anything about this in their communications. In legal texts, if a clause alludes to another one, it is always needed to go see what that other clause says, as that text will be part of this clause's meaning.
So here is Section 32. I have left out points (a) to (d) as they are about the internal functioning of the Governing Board and have no relevance for the issue at hand. This is the text:
32. Power to make regulations.-
(1) The Governing Board may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act and the rules made thereunder, for enabling it to discharge its functions under this Act.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such regulations may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:-
(e) the maintenance of the accounts of the Foundation;
(f) the maintenance of the registers and other records of the Foundation and its various committees;
(g) the appointment by the Governing Board of agents to discharge on its behalf any of its functions;
(h) admission or termination of persons in the register of residents.
If you go to read the full text, you will see that this whole section talks only about the Governing Board. The Residents' Assembly is never mentioned. In fact, in the whole of the Auroville Foundation Act, the Residents' Assembly is only mentioned in Sections 18, 19 and 20. Section 20 defines the Working Committee that needs to represent the residents to the Governing Board, so that the Governing Board can have some manageable interactions with “all” the residents. Sections 18 and 19 have been quoted in full above, and section 20 is not much longer. That's not a lot of text about the Residents' Assembly. And most of the other sections are about the duties, powers and functions of the Governing Board. This should give anybody who has any doubts an indication of how unimportant the Residents' Assembly is for the management of the Auroville Foundation.
Points (e) to (g) are interesting as they show that the Governing Board indeed is in charge of all administration of Auroville. That's not for the “RA” to deal with, clearly.
But it's point (h) that is important here, as that deals with who is allowed to live in Auroville. In spite of all the claims of the Aurovillagers, we see very unambiguously written here, that the Governing Board may make regulations about the admission and termination of Aurovilians. (Notice that the Act never speaks about “Aurovilians”. It only uses the term “residents”.)
Now is this not an interesting piece of information that the Stand for Auroville Unity campaign never mentions? It does not take a genius to see why: in spite of all their claims that section 19/2/a, on a superficial reading, seems to give the “right” to decide who lives in Auroville to the RA, that is not at all what the Auroville Foundation Act says. In fact, if you read this carefully, there can only be one conclusion: the Governing Board can decided what the criteria for admission into Auroville are, and the RA has the option to implement these criteria, and execute the task of noting down who does and who does not fulfil these criteria. In essence, the RA can take up the role of being the clerk, if they so wish to. If they don't want to do this, fine also: the Secretary is tasked with keeping the Register of Residents updated, and will have to find ways to do it, with or without the help of the RA.
Puts a bit of a different light on all of the high claims of the Aurovillagers and their Stand for Auroville Unity and Auroville News media campaigns, no?
One last point needs to be addressed in this regard: the Auroville Foundation (Admission and Termination of Persons in the Register of Residents) Regulations, 2020.
This is the first time that the regulations mentioned in section 32/2/h have been made and issued. 32 years after the creation of the Auroville Foundation, there were suddenly, for the first time, rules about who could join Auroville. These regulations were drafted by the Aurovillagers, who by now had come to the understanding that the RA had been functioning far above the standing it receives in the Auroville Foundation Act, and that some legal enshrinement of the “power of the RA” was lacking and urgently needed. And guess what: to nobody's surprise this whole document gives all the power to determine who is in the Register of Residents or not to – you guessed it – the RA! Victory at last!
Obviously, no matter which Aurovillager may have made the draft, these Regulations are legally formulated and decided by the Governing Board, and not by the Residents' Assembly. Which means that the Governing Board has every right to make changes to their own Admission and Termination Regulations. Without asking permission of “the RA”. I don't know about you, but I can feel some changes coming up here!