Auroville Under Existential Threat
Last update: 15th January 2024

To understand the present crisis, one has to understand that, until now, everything that has been done in Auroville was organised by its residents: they choose their committees, follow different decision-making processes and seek ways to progress while maintaining unity. Top-down decision-making has been rejected by Auroville, because it undermines the collective spirit that underpins everything else and goes against the very values and principles on which Auroville was founded.

This note outlines the deep crisis in this usually peaceful community dedicated to human unity in diversity – a living embodiment of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, ‘the world is one family’. It is followed by a second part, which aims to reflect on how residents have shown resilience and been creative against all odds, for them to continue developing the city in accordance with its original Charter and vision.


For more than two years, Auroville has been in the news due to recent turmoil and challenges in this international community located in southern India.

Founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, more commonly known as the Mother, Auroville is a project based on the vision of the great sage and philosopher Sri Aurobindo. This unique experiment in human unity attracts seekers and visitors from all over India and the world.

The Auroville Foundation was created as an autonomous body corporate in 1988 by an Act of Parliament. Referring to the Auroville Foundation Act, there are three bodies that are expected to work together to develop the project of Auroville:

  1. the Residents’ Assembly (consisting of residents 18 and above); 
  2. the Governing Board (appointed for a 4-year term by the Central Government of India); and
  3. the International Advisory Council (eminent scholars and elders from across the globe, also appointed by the Indian Government).

All three have generally worked harmoniously together until 2021. The Act balances their powers in a nuanced way, but goodwill from all sides is required to make it work. This is where things have recently gone amiss…

What is Auroville?

  • An experiment in human unity
  • An international project endorsed 5 times by UNESCO and supported by the Indian Government
  • Over 3,000 people from 60 nationalities
  • A community of souls thriving to progress through Karma yoga
  • A small town managing its school system, health clinics, waste…

New appointments to the Auroville Foundation

In July 2021 a public servant, Dr. Jayanti Ravi, was appointed as the new Secretary to the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation. She was warmly welcomed by the 3000 plus residents. Shortly afterwards, a new Governing Board was also nominated by the Central Government of India. 

This new appointment of Dr. Jayanti Ravi to the Office of the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation (‘Auroville Foundation Office’ – AVFO) set in motion a persistent, systematic and forceful dismantling of the essence and core functioning of Auroville. Until this past year, everything that has been achieved in Auroville over the last half century was organised by its residents, including the selection of internal committee members, the establishment of collective community decision-making processes and methods of development and progress, all whilst maintaining a collective unity. The new administration’s top-down authoritarian approach to decision-making is contrary to the Auroville Foundation Act (1988), to the collective spirit envisaged by the community’s founder and goes against the values and principles of freedom to experiment and self-govern around which Auroville was created.

The following is a short summary of the issues currently at play.

The current Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation, including its Chairman and its Secretary.

What Is Currently Under Threat?

Autonomous Governance

Auroville's self-governance is being replaced by an autocratic, top-down approach.

Sustainable Living

Much that has been achieved sustainably over the years is currently being destroyed.

Funds & Assets

Auroville's funds and assets are being misused or sold out without proper process nor accountability.

Freedom of Thought

Freedom of thought and of speech is severely hindered by censorship, and by attempts to rewrite Auroville's history.

Sense of Safety

Threats, intimidation and blackmailing are being used to disrupt Aurovilians' sense of safety and togetherness.

Spirit & Values

Auroville's spirit and values, and the ideal of human unity in diversity, are repeatedly undermined and denied.

Authoritarianism Rising

A systematic takeover of governance

There has been a systematic takeover by the AVFO of all of Auroville’s major internal working groups and committees that manage the key areas of administration, media and finances, resulting in the concentration of power in a handful of people who were not appointed by the residents and who do not represent the needs and aspirations of the majority. New decisions are being taken behind closed doors without any consultation, and are imposed along with threats to the livelihood of residents. 

Silencing the Residents' Assembly

There is a complete disregard for the decisions made by the Residents’ Assembly, normally in charge of organising all day-to-day activities in Auroville. Residents’ Assembly Decisions to stop these take over actions were completely ignored, despite over 90% of residents who voted clearly and strongly expressing their call for correct planning and development processes. The Secretary to the Governing Board is claiming that the Governing Board holds “the supreme authority of Auroville”, and her appointees have implied that residents should simply follow orders or leave – before they get expelled.

Dismissing executives and experts

Skilled executives of key services and groups were dismissed and banned from accessing their offices, computers and mailboxes, sometimes without warning or explanation, and their source of income was cut off with little or no replacement. Arbitrary appointments of unqualified people on the basis of their affiliation with the AVFO have become the norm.

Similarly, professional Aurovilian experts in the fields of architecture, planning, water conservation, sustainable housing, nature rejuvenation, reafforestation and more, are being sidelined and ignored in all decisions taken in their relevant fields of expertise.

Residents of Auroville gathering in front of the Auroville Town Hall to show solidarity with their Working Committee, 19th May 2022.

Bulldozing Sustainable Living

An 'undisputable' plan

Since December 2021, the sudden implementation of an outdated and inappropriate urban plan, called the ‘Auroville Master Plan, Perspective 2025’, is currently being carried out by force, under the direction of the AVFO and associates, with bulldozing at night, destruction of endangered forest and water catchment areas, and the eviction of residents from their homes with only a few days notice. Mass-bulldozing and tree cutting in project areas funded by the Government of India or the European Commission have become the norm and are currently still being carried out.

Amongst other issues, this recent enforcement fixates on a perfectly circular 17-meter wide Crown Road without taking into consideration the social or environmental impacts, disregarding the recommendations of Auroville’s experts, and ignoring the ecological, functional and creative alternative plans proposed by the collective. Large radial roads and an external ‘Outer Ring Road’ are also being imposed, without however any proper mobility plan.

Moreover, the AVFO has not undertaken the necessary steps to receive official clearances, such as Environmental Impact Assessments or Detailed Development Plans. Existing functional and sustainable roads have been dismantled and are being replaced by giant concrete-based slabs of substandard quality, which have a calculated carbon footprint of 952% more than the previous roads, and which do not allow for rainwater to percolate and recharge the aquifers. 

Forests, food and water under threat

On the basis of ‘developing the City’, many of Auroville’s forests, parks and naturally preserved environments are either being bulldozed or under threat of having their lands exchanged. Some of these forests include sanctuaries which are protecting the wildlife of protected species, and water-catchment areas which benefit all the neighbouring villages and bioregion. Proposals for developing the City while preserving the reforestation work done over 50 years have been formulated, but are being ignored by the AVFO. Recent land exchanges have also impacted Auroville’s most productive farm, endangering the entire food security of Auroville. 

The Auroville 'Master Plan: Perspective 2025' has not been updated since its preparation by the Residents' Assembly in 1999.
Portions of biodiversely rich Auroville forests have been bulldozed in December 2021 to make way for a road. This included protected species and water catchment areas.

Appropriating Funds & Assets

Mismanagement of funds and assets

Communal funds, collected with the contribution and work of residents, are being opaquely allocated by individuals who have not been appointed by the appropriate established processes and refuse to answer to the Residents’ Assembly. Communal assets, some being funded by national and international grants, are being repurposed without the agreement of the stakeholders involved. 

In some cases, financial fraud is suspected since tenders have been allocated without following proper procedures, and works of substandard quality have been carried out against crores of rupees.

Auroville land being sold out

Land exchanges and deals are being made in an opaque manner, and at rates that have incurred estimated losses of more than 100 Crore rupees to Auroville (about 13 million US dollars). Selling out the lands of Auroville at undervalued rates raises important questions about who profits these deals, suggesting the possibility of undisclosed motives and financial irregularities. Furthermore, these land exchanges were made without following any established due process – in non-compliance with directives from India’s Ministry of Education.

Despite the duty of the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation as ‘Estate Officer’, several land encroachments occurred on Auroville lands with practically no response from the Secretary. Residents gathered spontaneously to face these encroachments on many occasions, often without support from those authorities tasked with the protection of these assets. 

Capitalising on tourism

Several elements seem to indicate the AVFO’s intention to capitalise on tourism, and use Auroville to generate funds for unknown purposes. Such elements include the forceful takeover of the Visitors’ Center, which receives and channels tourists visiting Auroville; the restructuring of Auroville’s hospitality sector, moving towards the centralisation of Auroville Guest Houses with the support of the manager of an international hotel chain; and the paid entrance fee that some public spaces such as Bharat Nivas have started asking from tourists.

The Auroville Town Hall (ACUR), one of the many buildings that have been reallocated and repurposed without following any process.
The management of the Auroville Visitors Center, which welcomes several thousands tourists a day in the high season, has been replaced by the AVFO without following any due process.

Rewriting the Narrative

Misinformation campaigns

In January 2022, the Auroville service run by the residents that manages external public relations (Outreach Media) was forcibly taken over by the AVFO and renamed ‘Media Interface’. Since then, sustained campaigns of misinformation have been carried out, which doctor the narratives of events and denigrate Auroville’s achievements over decades.


In June 2022, several essential internal communication networks, including the community’s main email server and the Auronet (the online communication platform for residents), were taken over by the AVFO under the pretext of identifying any anti-government or anti-national activities – followed by the deletion of comments and accounts despite their adherence to usage guidelines. The private emails of hundreds of Indian and foreign nationals are, still now, under the control of undisclosed and unregulated individuals with full administrator privileges, and their actions follow no known established code of conduct regarding privacy. Some residents perceived as ‘opposers’ have fully lost access to the Auronet, and to their private or professional mailboxes.

Controlling history

In June 2022, the Auroville Archives – a public service created and run by the residents – was forcibly taken over by the AVFO. Residents fear for the decades of history, multimedia material and records being maintained by the Archives, as this intervention allows unsupervised control over the historical narrative of past and present events.

Sign board made by Auroville residents in December 2021, asking for communication instead of abuse of power.

Disrupting the Sense of Safety

Housing and allowances threatened

Over the past six months, some residents have received threats of losing their housing, constructed with the appropriate permissions and which they have often built themselves. Evictions have not followed processes of Indian law which allow adequate time for residents to relocate with allocation of proper alternatives for housing or workplaces. The monthly allowances (called ‘maintenances’ in Auroville) of approximately 160 residents have been discontinued arbitrarily, despite their need to cover basic expenses.

In this climate of fear and insecurity, many do not dare raise their voice – for the threat to their livelihood and their dedication to live here is real.

Visa pressure

Visa recommendations, a responsibility in the hands of the Secretary of the AVFO, are being withheld despite the applicants adhering to all required criteria, and often having lived decades in Auroville without any previous issue. Visas seem to be specifically withheld for those who have publicly expressed disagreement with the actions taken by the AVFO. In February 2023, this escalated further when an Auroville-born resident and duly appointed representative of the community was issued a ‘Leave India Notice’, seemingly for speaking out about the recent state of events in Auroville. In June 2023, an Auroville resident for 35 years and founder of the ‘Auroville Earth Institute’ had his visa revoked by the AVFO Secretary – an unprecedented event in Auroville’s history. Today, over 200 Auroville residents have been impacted by visa issues. 

Criminal charges filed on dubious grounds

In May 2022, criminal complaints were filed by the Under Secretary of the Auroville Foundation against some Aurovilians outspoken against actions of the AVFO, referencing a number of unsubstantiated charges including “rioting” and “cybercrimes”. The matter is still in courts, but anticipatory bail was granted to the accused Aurovilians.

Youth as a scapegoat

Many of the AVFO’s destructives actions have been targeting the youth of Auroville, through the bulldozing of the International Youth Center, the interruption of several youths’ monthly allowances and budgets, and the systematic defamation of these ‘youngsters’. The International Youth Center and others have always shown their willingness to collaborate with all parties, provided their voices are heard and taken into account.

This house, built by two residents over 30 years ago, was destroyed by the AVFO due to its location on the planned 'Crown road'. However, the plans required to start building the road haven't been finalized nor approved yet.
The main kitchen of the International Youth Center, a settlement and public space in Auroville, was bulldozed in December 2021 without the Youth Center inhabitants' nor the wider community's consent.

Denying Auroville's Spirit and Values

This comprehensive interference in the functioning of Auroville is contrary to the letter and spirit of the provisions of the Auroville Foundation Act, which promotes and protects the necessary autonomy of the residents and their right to self-governance, and expects its three constitutional authorities to work in a spirit of mutuality. On 12th August 2022, the Madras High Court upheld this mutually collaborative aspect of the Auroville Foundation Act; a judgement that was appealed by the AVFO, which erroneously claimed in the courts that residents are “miscreants” and the Governing Board “has complete control and management of the affairs” of Auroville. A final verdict is yet to be given.

More importantly, these developments, though imposed by the AVFO in the name of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, are dramatically opposed to their vision of unity, compassion and action on the basis of genuine collaboration and flexibility. How the city will be built remains to be seen, but the recent trends stray further every day from the Dream envisioned by the founders of Auroville, which thrives through its residents.

The oldest garden of the Matrimandir compound, now removed to make way for a lake projected to surround the area.

In a Nutshell

Auroville in this current turmoil is in danger of turning into an ordinary public sector institution with obsolete rigid systems and processes replacing the fertile soil needed to experiment new ways of living. Governance, autonomous management and sustainable living are also part of the larger experiment of Auroville. New ways need to be discovered and tried. This needs an organisation built on an open, supple, experimental and flexible mindset. Plasticity is one of the essential qualities needed for moulding a new humanity.

As Auroville faces these unprecedented challenges, the community continues to aspire for the deep transformational change envisioned by the Mother. Residents, who have committed their lives to the manifestation of its ideals, continue to call for the help and support of well-wishers in India and the world to safeguard and ensure the survival of this magnificent and unprecedented adventure called Auroville.

For Sri Aurobindo's 151st birth anniversary on 15th August 2022, Aurovilians have organised a giant bonfire near the International Zone Inuksuk.
Part 2
Responses from a Resilient Community

The current crisis has tested Aurovilians to their very core, subjecting the Auroville project to unparalleled risks. Yet, it has simultaneously carved out a chance for transformation, allowing the reiteration of Auroville’s purpose and its profound values.

This note is followed by a Part 2, which seeks to ponder upon how residents have exhibited resilience and ingenuity in the face of daunting challenges, enabling them to persist in advancing the city in alignment with its original Charter and vision.

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(This video was prepared in December 2022, over a year after the forcible takeover and bulldozing of Auroville had started.)