Auroville: Setting the Record Straight - A letter from concerned Residents of Auroville
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Dear friends of Auroville,
As you all know, Auroville, the Universal Town in the making, is founded on the work and vision of the Indian sage and philosopher, Sri Aurobindo, and his spiritual partner, Mirra Alfassa, from France, known as the Mother. This visionary world experiment was endorsed by UNESCO for the future and unity of humankind through a change of Consciousness.
Auroville was inaugurated on February 28, 1968 with a City plan and a Charter before 5000 guests that included ambassadors, UNESCO directors and people and youth from India and around the world. The City plan and the Charter form the twin basis of Auroville as a unified and unique experiment which combines material development with the spiritual.
Foreseeing the crisis of humanity and the plight of cities worldwide, Auroville was planned as a model of spiritual urbanism for which the Mother commissioned the architect Roger Anger to make a city plan which came to be known as the Galaxy. A first master plan study was prepared under Her watch in 1969. The plan integrates social, cultural, educational, economic and environmental factors needed to create the conditions of change for the world’s future. We aspire to see this unique city experiment realized in the best possible way, without further delay, and hope to have your support in its manifestation.
Once the Auroville Foundation came into being with the Auroville Foundation Act and started functioning with the appointment of a Governing Board, the process of creating a master plan based on the Galaxy plan model, was done, approved and published in the Gazette of the Government of India. This model will be exhibited at the MOMA, New York, from February to July 2022 as a part of an exhibition on Modern Indian Architecture that will feature the work of Charles Correa, B V Doshi, Joseph Stein, Le Corbusier, Laurie Baker and Roger Anger.
On December 4, 2021, after months of sustained discussions, Auroville’s Town Development Council issued a work order to commence work on clearing the path known as the Crown. This circular path which unifies all parts of the city is a largely pedestrian artery that is to form Auroville’s main urban life centre and clearly indicated in the Master plan. Unfortunately, the anti-city and environmental hardliners soon gathered to aggressively stop the work by putting small children in front of JCBs that had been called to do the work of clearing. Police were called at night to protect the area from protestors and to allow the work to continue. However work was again blocked as the protestors returned and refused to back down.
Since then, misleading and destructive reports about Auroville and the events have been circulating in the media, social media, and petitions both via external and internal media. They challenge the master plan and speak in the name of all Aurovilians. This is absolutely incorrect and a matter of great concern as even RA decisions are now flouted with provocative statements against the government at the cost of Auroville. We want to take this opportunity to dispel the misinformation that is being spread and offer some clarity.
The Crown, an essential artery, has been blocked for over two decades by deliberately planting trees and thorns over it, effectively making large sections out of bounds, instead of taking care to keep the passage of this collective zone of Auroville clear. Additionally, ‘temporary’ buildings had been placed deliberately on the Crown, without permission and by defying agreements made. Anywhere else in the world, whether in India, Europe, America or elsewhere, the clearing of essential roads that are to serve everyone cannot be blocked or obstructed in such a manner, for so long.
Clearly, it is not an issue of saving a few hundred trees or sustainability. In the context of three million trees that already exist, serving only 3500 people occupying 3000 acres of land, we cannot proclaim to be sustainable. It is more a case, as it has become clear, of those who refuse the city as planned. JCBs and police have been declared as prime villains in all this but the fact is that the foresters and some architects protesting, remain the most regular users of JCBs in Auroville. With a little goodwill and collaboration all the drama that ensued and continues to fester could have been avoided. There is also the record of a JCB being driven into a community by foresters and youth, without warning, to dig a 2m wide and 2m deep trench to block access. Continued passivity towards such actions has led to a culture of entitlement and impunity that we witness today.
Auroville is planned as a very green and sustainable city with ample areas designated for green corridors and parks in the city area alone plus a greenbelt that will surround it. The fabricated ‘controversy’ around the master plan has been a recurring ploy to delay and obstruct Auroville from growing. Most shocking of all has been the NGT Stay Order to stop the work with a few members taking the rest of Auroville to court. No process was followed, no consultation sought and no respect given to the wishes of the rest of Auroville.
The how of it, now being decried, shows no acknowledgement or respect for the work done and expertise attained over the last 25 years. A master plan agreed upon and approved cannot change into a forest at the whims of some, altering the very direction of Auroville. Nor can it be challenged each time work finally gets ready to start.
Previous Governing Boards of the Auroville Foundation who helped initiate and get the needed approvals for Auroville’s master plan, also urged us to take the work forward several times without success. The current Governing Board has fortunately taken a very proactive stand which is appreciated by a large section of the community.
We must also remember that the people of the surrounding villages, here in Tamil Nadu, offered their land to the Mother to see Her dream realized. There is an open frustration that even after 50 years, their land holds only about 3500 people and not 50,000 as intended. There is a great support amongst the local population who want to contribute towards Auroville’s development with their skills, dedication and goodwill. Many have joined Auroville to see it realized but face the risk of being fired or not accepted, should they openly claim to support the city.
The provocative misinformation and media hype that continues has harmed Auroville’s image in the immediate bio region, and before India which hosts this unique experiment for the rest of the world. It has also confused our associates and well wishers who have collaborated with us and supported our growth and aspirations for decades.
Auroville is not about the personal dreams of the residents. It is a vision and a hope that each Aurovilian holds in trust for humanity. That all this occurs during Sri Aurobindo’s 150th birth anniversary has also come as a shock for many around the world.
Please be assured that we are neither in danger nor in any enforced situation despite the provocative actions and abusive behaviour of some residents of Auroville so far, and no one has been hurt as it is being falsely insinuated.
In their meeting of 18th January, 2022, the Governing Board unanimously reaffirmed its stand of continuing with the expeditious implementation of the Auroville township as per the Auroville master plan and invited all to collaborate harmoniously.
India, by carrying the Mother’s invitation to the world to build Auroville based on the vision of Sri Aurobindo, recognizes the aims and objectives of this visionary project, a place of unending learning. This ‘crisis’ is a moment of truth for all those who have joined Auroville of their own free-will, to participate in its realization and to live up to their commitment.
Our gratitude for your association with Auroville and for your support.
Concerned Residents of Auroville
25th January, 2022