Puducherry

Calls for restoring harmony amid spiralling tensions in Auroville

The discord in the community first erupted in December when a section of nature-loving residents blocked the felling of trees for the Crown right-of-way — a radial road circling the Matrimandir — that marked the first step of the Auroville Foundation governing board’s decision to expedite a long-pending Master Plan.

The discord in the community first erupted in December when a section of nature-loving residents blocked the felling of trees for the Crown right-of-way — a radial road circling the Matrimandir — that marked the first step of the Auroville Foundation governing board’s decision to expedite a long-pending Master Plan. | Photo Credit: KUMAR SS

Amid the latest escalation in the conflict between a section of residents and the authorities in Auroville, some good-willed pressure is beginning to be brought to bear on both sides to retreat from a confrontational course that could wreck the foundational ideals of the universal township.

Leading the efforts for restoring harmony in the universal township, the former chairman of Auroville Foundation Karan Singh has urged Auroville Secretary Jayanti Ravi to initiate efforts in this direction.

“Trying to build Auroville without the cooperation of the Aurovilleans is prima facie a contradiction and will go against the whole raison d’etre of this unique experiment. Even at this stage I feel that there should be serious efforts for reconciliation in which you, as Secretary, will need to play a leading role,” he said in a recent letter to Ms. Jayanti Ravi that has since been shared on Auroville-related groups on social media.

This is not the first that the former chairman is seeking to defuse tensions at a time of crisis at Auroville, which was envisioned by The Mother (Mirra Alfassa), and spiritual associate of Sri Aurobindo. 

At the height of the polarisation in the Auroville community in December over the implementation of the Master Plan, Mr. Karan Singh had appealed to the residents to maintain calm and cooperate with the work on the master plan approved by the Government of India.

“Any good-intentioned move that will help us set aside whatever differences are there and collaboratively work towards Auroville’s goal is certainly welcome”, said Ms. Jayanti Ravi.

The discord in the community had first erupted in December when a section of nature-loving residents blocked the felling of trees for the Crown right-of-way — a radial road circling the Matrimandir — that marked the first step of the Auroville Foundation governing board’s decision to expedite a long-pending Master Plan.

Though things seemed to calm down after the National Green Tribunal passed an order on the issue on April 28, passions ran high again last week after a new set of office-bearers elected by the Residents’ Assembly reclaimed the Working Committee office. Based on a complaint by the incumbent WC, the authorities called in the police on May 18.

The police sealed the Town Hall offices on May 18 and booked six Aurovilians, including five foreign nationals, for various offences under sections of the Indian Penal Code and Information Technology Act ranging from rioting to cyber-crimes.

The RA-elected members have maintained that the seven-member WC was elected in accordance with the provisions of the Auroville Foundation Act, 1988 that explicitly state that “the manner of choosing the members of the Working Committee and their term of office shall be such as may be decided by the Residents’ Assembly”.

However, the Foundation’s position is that the governing board had categorically called for a pause on RA decision-making processes until a Register of Residents was updated to reflect the current demography of the township, and that as such, neither the RA meeting convened on May 10 nor its election of a seven-member Working Committee, could be legitimate or valid.

“We are absolutely fine with an RA convening and electing a working committee of its choice once the process of updating the registry is completed... which should only take a few weeks.”, Ms. Jayanti Ravi said.

In his renewed appeal for calm amid tensions rising once again in Auroville, Mr. Karan Singh also acknowledged that when some buildings were constructed there may not have been clear rules or guidelines regarding their location, and that it was doubtful whether in the early days any special authorisation was needed to build in Auroville. 

Large sums of money have been invested by Aurovilians in some of these structures, supported by donations from abroad and these facts also need to be kept in mind while proceeding with the plan to build the city, he said.

Noting that though “building the city is important, but technically this can be done anywhere in India by the local PWD”, he advocated utilising Auroville’s in-house expertise. He pointed to the pre-eminence of the Auroville Earth Institute which had made a name internationally in the field of earth architecture as case in point.

The uniqueness of Auroville lay in the fact that men and women from over fifty countries came there and lived in harmony with each other. It is tragic that the harmony has been disrupted and there is now a wide-spread sense of alienation among the community. To add to their feeling of insecurity is the fact that apparently certain visas are being curtailed, the letter said.

Mr. Karan Singh also reflected on his own experience as chairman for 20 years, when he did everything possible “not only to develop Auroville with the construction of numerous new buildings and institutions, but also to keep intact the overall harmony of this unique experiment set up by the Mother half a century ago”.


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Printable version | Jun 7, 2022 6:42:27 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/calls-for-restoring-harmony-amid-spiralling-tensions-in-auroville/article65454019.ece