Auroville residents gather to support Resident Assembly

A section of Aurovilians gathered in front of the Town Hall on Thursday to support the self governance mandate of the  Residents Assembly.

A section of Aurovilians gathered in front of the Town Hall on Thursday to support the self governance mandate of the Residents Assembly. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A section of Aurovilians gathered in front of the Town Hall on Thursday in a show of support to the self-governance mandate of the Residents Assembly, one of the key decision-making bodies in the international township of Auroville.

A day after the police was called into Auroville after the Foundation reported a break-in into the Working Committee (WC) office and an “illegal take over of its records and communication systems”, scores of Aurovilians assembled in the morning to demonstrate support for the Residents’ Assembly and its newly-appointed Working Committee.

On Wednesday, the police had shut down the entire Town Hall office, including all associated services. after the new WC, which was elected at a May 10 meeting of the Residents’ Assembly, refused to hand over the keys of the offices in the absence of the necessary legal order and justification,

Meanwhile, Auroville Foundation condemned the “unauthorised take-over of the Working Committee office” by persons chosen through irregular votes and the show of support by some residents to such brazen acts. Based on the result of this illegal vote, unauthorised residents changed the lock of two Working Committee offices overnight and also seized the mailboxes of the WC and began to circulate messages to the community and outside authorities, it said.

“The legitimate Working Committee made a complaint, based on which a police complaint was filed against the unauthorised residents who had indulged in criminal trespass and cybercrimes. With effect to this complaint, Auroville Police Station has registered a case under sections 147, 452, 341, 353, 465, 506(1) of IPC and 66, 66C, 66D of IT Act 2000. The police are investigating the issues and the extent of the cybercrimes and further action is awaited”, the Foundation said.

The latest flashpoint in a protracted tussle between a section of Aurovilians and the Foundation over sustainability aspects of fast-tracking the master plan for Auroville,  originates in a recent split in the seven-member WC into two factions. After a group backed by the Auroville Foundation, removed three members, the ousted members contended that the decision was irregular as only the Residents Assembly was authorised to remove/elect members to the WC.

As this power tussle was playing out to wrest control over the WC, a section of residents called for an urgent meeting of the Resident Assembly at which four members were voted out for “acting against the interests of the residents” , and a new WC chosen.

Terming the town hall protest as a pivotal moment in Auroville’s self-governance, an Aurovilian said the RA meeting and it decisions were in keeping with the Auroville Foundation Act, 1988.

“We had communicated that inadequate maintenance of the registry had no bearing on the validity and legitimacy of the decision-making processes of the Residents’ Assembly, that those who voted were registered Aurovilians and that the threshold criteria had been met in terms of quorum and ratifying decisions.

However, Auroville Foundation officials said that a status check in April found that the data was not updated properly since 2005 and as such the Residents Assembly did not exist as a valid entity representative of all residents.

“Basic accountability demands that we keep a proper register of residents, including foreigners. And, with just over 3,000 residents, such a process should normally not take more than a month. However, some residents are not willing to comply with the process”, the official said.

The Foundation Act clearly states that the Residents Assembly shall include all residents listed in the registry and it is the mandate of the Secretary to maintain the records. The Act also stipulates that the resident shall not own any property in the Master Plan area or engage in private business, officials said.

In these circumstances, any decision taken by the Resident Assembly is null and void as the Register of Residents is not reflecting the current demographics in the universal township. The Foundation governing board has also decided to retain the existing Working Committee until such time that the registry is brought up to date. “We have clearly conveyed that any Resident Assembly decision taken in the interim is irregular and invalid”, a spokesman said.

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Printable version | Jun 9, 2022 2:16:16 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/auroville-residents-gather-to-support-resident-assembly/article65430551.ece