Grim news from Auroville

The text that follows is the Editorial Note of the Voice of Auroville journal’s fifth issue. It reflects the challenges and threats met by the Auroville community in these trying times. 

It is followed by an open letter to the Auroville community, written by the Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly on 6th February 2024, and by a call for support. 

Grim news from Auroville

Auroville has been built on the teachings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo as a place “which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of goodwill who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme truth”; “a place of peace, concord and harmony”, based on relationships “of collaboration and real brotherhood” (The Mother, A Dream). For over 50 years, this dream has been sustained by its first custodians, the residents of Auroville, together with wellwishers in India and worldwide. Nothing was ever perfect, but one could feel that the dream was alive and slowly taking shape, with trials and errors, with hopes and frustrations, and more importantly – with goodwill. Today, all that Auroville has achieved and stands for is on the brink of destruction.

In recent months, there has been a significant acceleration in the administrative, financial, and ideological takeover of Auroville that began more than two years ago after the appointment of a new Governing Board and its Secretary, Dr Jayanti Ravi. Considering the magnitude of these developments and the threat they pose to Auroville, the fifth issue of Voice of Auroville will exclusively address the ongoing crisis. Although we had intended to highlight Auroville’s bioregional accomplishments in this edition, we must instead direct our readers’ full attention to the tremendous challenges currently facing our community. What is jeopardised here is not merely the well-being of individuals, but the very existence of Auroville itself.

The aggressive takeover of Auroville’s governance seeks to nullify the freedom and autonomy required for the project to experiment and develop in accordance with its original purpose. The privatisation of Auroville and the abusive cutting of budgets and funds is undermining the spirit of service and self-offering that was so precious. The imposition of wide concreted roads and high-density concrete buildings contravenes Auroville’s commitment to sustainable development and ecological restoration. The commercialisation of spirituality indicates a shift from the experimental aspect of Auroville, moving away from its collective dimension, to the benefit of a ‘spirituality’ based on appearances and words more than on shared lived experiences. All of this – together with the active threat of Auroville being appropriated by private and financial interests – is causing irreversible damage to the social fabric and physical landscape of Auroville.

Quoting from a recent letter of two International Advisory Council members endorsed by eight eminent international personalities:

“Abandoning the Charter, issuing unilateral and arbitrary diktats, brushing aside all advice received, indulging in opaque and unethical practices, will certainly not create the Auroville of Mother’s dreams. Auroville was not intended to become a real estate project with the appearance of a regimented “spiritual” community.

Despite the chaos and destruction that has been imposed onto Auroville for more than two years, the community perseveres. Residents continue to stand for Auroville’s experimental, universal and pioneering aspects. But, to stand a chance, the support of all – whether in India or abroad – is needed. Auroville is a collective adventure that can only unfold through joint efforts and consolidated actions, united by the same aspiration. The Mother once said: “I know that Auroville WILL be”. This is what many Aurovilians cling to, in these challenging times.

Please, join us in collectively protecting the ‘City the Earth Needs’. We need your presence and support. You can learn more about how to help further below on this page.

Extracted from Voice of Auroville, Issue 05, February 2024

Tree cutting on the planned Radial roads, January 2024

Open letter to the Auroville community

By the Working Committee, 6th February 2024

Dear friends and members of the Auroville family,

We are very aware that these last weeks and months have been particularly heavy on most, shaking to the core many residents and Auroville well-wishers.

Attacks on the heart of Auroville have intensified, with callous land exchanges, rushed massive clearing and tree cutting, and new regulations which aim to indirectly change the Act by nullifying the role of the Residents’ Assembly.

Plans to exchange over 900 acres of Auroville’s outlying lands, moves to take full control over who is allowed to be an Aurovilian and who should be removed, more maintenance cuts, the planned installation of a barbed-wire fence around all of Auroville’s city center area, and the allocation of land and buildings to external institutions are all changing the original purpose and scope of Auroville as it was envisioned in the Dream of the Mother, and will unfortunately be cutting Auroville off from the local bioregion.

We have reached out many times to the Governing Board across the last two years, repeatedly proposing our active support and involvement in manifesting a truly collaborative approach for developing Auroville. Sadly, all these attempts have simply been ignored – never has the Governing Board even taken the time to answer or acknowledge a single one of our emails. Instead, the authoritarian and regimented takeover of Auroville has only intensified, making it utterly clear that for the Governing Board and its Secretary, collaboration and mutuality – in the spirit set forth by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo – were never an intended venture. To face such a brute force of coercion, censorship and falsehood has been increasingly distressing for many, including ourselves.

However, even if the times we are going through are tough and distressing, we have not lost hope. Sometimes, it takes a very little sparkle of light to change the tides. And, undoubtedly, Auroville is a land of miracles. Its very existence would seem to many to be an impossibility; yet, with the Mother’s force pouring through the hard work of residents and all those who belong to the extended Auroville family, Auroville has taken off and has grown tremendously in the past 50 years. Nothing in Auroville has ever been perfect, but in retrospect one must acknowledge that Auroville has already achieved an impressive number of milestones. Nowhere else in the world has a small township of Auroville’s scale realized so much, with people of goodwill from all across India and the globe. Auroville is a unique place in the world, an unprecedented experiment in human unity, a gem for all of humanity. The path forward is still long, but much distance has already been travelled and Auroville will not fail.

We invite everyone to aspire and act with us for a truer and even more luminous Auroville to manifest, with the goodwill, participation and collaboration of all. This goes hand in hand with protecting the beautiful achievements that Auroville has manifested so far. Let us continue to stand for our truths in the face of forces which seek to appropriate, twist and repurpose Auroville for hidden agendas and private interests.

May Auroville continue to shine as a beacon of hope in the sea of transformational struggles that humankind is facing today, all over the planet. The bigger the challenges, the bigger the faith and aspiration we must collectively live up to and embody. Let us continue to dare the Dream – this is also Auroville’s true purpose.

And may we always remember Mother’s clear, unshakable and powerful words: “Auroville WILL be.”

In Faith,

The Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly
Aravinda, Bharathy, Chali, Hemant, Maël (TOS), Sauro, Valli

Tree cutting in Revelation Forest sanctuary, January 2024. Residents organised a prayer for the felled trees after the destruction.
Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly, June 2022. From left to right: Maël, Chali, Valli, Hemant, Sauro, Bharathy and Aravinda

How to help?

Given the events covered on this page and in this website, you might be wondering what can be done to help the Auroville Community. Here are a few immediate steps.

1. Stay updated and well informed

The new administrative regime has invested much of its efforts in controlling the narrative by censoring information, publishing oversimplified propaganda through diverse channels and punishing dissenting views. Today more than ever, we are all invited to be discerning and check the credibility of the information we hear and read.

Some reliable and fact-based news sources, other than this website and the Voice of Auroville journal, include a community-led newsletter called “Evolving Galaxy”. For more information, contact [email protected]

To subscribe to Voice of Auroville, contact [email protected]

2. Spread the word, raise awareness

Share this website – and other testimonies – with your contacts and friends to make sure the voice of the Aurovilians is not silenced. Everyone should know that Auroville needs help. If you can, reach out to potential change-makers: people with a wide network, journalists, diplomats, artists…

3. Offer your service or financial support

The current struggle for Auroville’s survival requires everyone’s help and participation. If you are able to offer some of your time and energy, please get in touch with [email protected]. If you can offer some financial support to help those whose livelihoods have been impacted by the current crisis, reach out to [email protected]. Thank you – together we are stronger.

Under the Matrimandir Banyan tree, December 2023