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Appalling call for belligerence

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I was frantically invited to a Pour Tous (for all) meeting, through various means, mediums, and languages on Saturday, May 7th, between 4.30 – 6 pm, at Kalabhumi to ‘Come for an update on the situation today. The invite mentioned topics like the National Green Tribunal judgment, Youth Centre alert, Residents’ Assembly Decisions, and other urgent topics!

It requested me to participate in building the Auroville I want! In community. I accepted the appeal and attended it. 

But, I was greatly disappointed for the following reasons:

1. It was a Pour ‘Nous’ meeting. In attendance were the usual entitled elites. 

2. The title was misleading, there was no update on the ‘situation today’. The organisers were the same as the RAD petitioners, and they did not include ‘situations’ that did not support their political campaigning. 

3. I heard only one side of the story about the 3+ topics mentioned in the call for the meeting. When I am invited to the meeting, I expect debate, discussion, and deliberation between various lines of thought, at least TWO. As a resident, I might have been enriched by attending such ‘MEETING’ instead of attending this one-sided propagandistic show of strength. 

4. It mentioned other urgent topics, but I noticed no mention of Lack of Housing, Shortage of Maintenances, Celebration of Sri Aurobindo’s 150th anniversary, etc. Clearly, the entitled elites who organised this meeting did not think of them as an urgent issue. After all, a few elites’ loss of house needs to be an URGENT topic for everyone. But a large chunk of residents who do not even have an acceptable, respectable, dependable, livable space to call home is not a matter of concern for these selfish entitled elites. 

Nevertheless, I stayed on and watched the full performance.

I felt it to be again, one more brainwashing session, call to arms, all in the garb of ‘Unity’. The organisers had tactfully put forth two exceptional Indian faces on stage, about whom Thomas Macaulay would have been extremely proud. On his undertaking of a “civilising mission” in 1835, Macaulay proclaimed, “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class, we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.”

Myself, being a substandard outcome of that kind of Macaulayan thought, felt extremely proud of my compatriots’ performance. The two went on to narrate their masters’ narrative with their native mouths. So much for free boarding, breakfast, and booze – at Fertile and Aurobrindavan – is an outstanding Return on Investment for the organisers. Little disappointed that the Indians yet again proved to be cheap labour for the Westerners.

Apart from the above-mentioned proud moments, I was a bit disappointed and a lot appalled at the discourse of the meeting. I already expected it to be an echo-chamber, like before, and I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t change much. If anything the echo-chamber got tighter and narrower. This time around, I hardly saw any faces from the ‘opposing camps’. I noticed ample self-congratulatory attitude and back-patting. I wonder how much one gains from hearing one’s own voice repeatedly. 

On the other hand, I was a lot appalled by the belligerent tone and narrative of the performance. When I returned home, I thought about the appalling aspects which I found were unnecessary for our community. The following are my observations on the three acts of the performance. 

Act one: NGT judgement

The NGT verdict is no doubt a win for the petitioners. It would have been useful if one used it as a momentary instrument to pause, reflect, and recalibrate further actions. Instead, it seems to have emboldened the petitioners and their masters to an extent, they’re blatantly calling for more such court cases. In their words, our duty is to ‘educate’ the Government of India. I am not sure if the Indian parliament unilaterally passed the AF Act to set up Auroville as their moral compass. 

Act two: Youth Centre alert

At some point, they touched upon the recent letter from ATDC informing the community about dismantling the Youth Centre structures. Again, instead of weighing in multiple options, and finding a positive and creative way out, our enlightened performers could only come up with the same two options tried before. One, physically stopping the JCB by brute brawn power of children. They called everyone to protest on site. Second, again knocking on the doors of the court. We’ve walked that path already, it’s not very ‘constructive’ in the long term. We cannot expect to get lucky all the time. Moreover, it seemed justified as an exigent measure on Dec 10th. But after 5months, if we don’t have any other options, I would consider the organizers all Fancy and Furious, while seriously short on substance. 

On the protest and visa connection, the performers openly lied to the audience that the foreigners have nothing to fear about. It’s not true. Even the Indians can be arrested for obstruction of public works. Of course, you can take a course in law. Good luck fighting your ‘just’ case from your passport-issuing country. 

Act three: RAD

I am not well-versed with election procedures of other countries, but in India, no campaigning is allowed when the vote is being cast. The restriction is there for a very valid reason. The voters must not be influenced by influential parties. In our case, on the eve before the final voting day, the RAS has allowed the petitioners to conduct a meeting, wherein the performers were openly deriding and demonizing the incumbent four Working Committee members. I found it appalling that the petitioners were openly influencing the audience with their skewed viewpoints. 

I’ve written a whole series of absurdities that I found in the ongoing RAD process. Yesterday’s community meeting added one more feather to that ugly cap.
 

Apart from the appalling attitude of the performers and organisers, I was equally concerned about the level of the audience’s submissiveness.

As soon as the two impeccable monologues got over, Ms. Foulmouth patronisingly hijacked the Q&A session. She declared right in the beginning, that she knew all the questions the audience might have, and proceeded with her slew of the pre-determined script. She unfailingly asked provoking and leading questions. The readymade answers were most likely the result of well-rehearsed performance. Mr. Funnymouth duly enacted his role as the next performer. He added much-required fiery-ness with his trademark funny deliverance, to the otherwise dull evening.

No one questioned the staged performance.

The audience, as expected, didn’t cross-question, caved into the narrative, religiously clapped to keep the morale of the performers high, and one enamoured old fanboy, basking in his stupidity even went upstage to cajole and congratulate his darlings.

In the final last moments, the mic was passed on to the audience for taking a few ‘real’ questions. Unfortunately, all the ‘questioners’ were supportive of the organisers in nature and none of them really examined their stars on stage. In fact, most of the comments were not addressed to the organisers, instead, they were advice, sermons, appeals, and directives to the submissively sitting audience.

I left the meeting, hoping, the predominantly pale audience was not pale in their thinking and intelligence. I hope they went back home and at least questioned themselves. I hope they discern between activism and actionism. I hope they ask themselves the reason they made Auroville their home. Was it to ‘own’ a house and protest for their ‘belonging’? Or, was it to belong to the ‘Unknown’? I hope they don’t succumb to their law of the jungle again and THINK!

And, THINK where this belligerence will take us. Can you act one way and not expect a reaction? In the last year, I’ve noticed, that we’ve been thinking and taking one step at a time, and getting surprised or shocked by the reaction. I am surprised at us getting surprised every time. We need to think like a chess players. We need to figure out multiple steps and multiple scenarios with the external forces before we act. We need to take into account various implications and the lasting ramifications of our belligerent moves. However, at present, we are being led by mentally unstable personalities, towards a certain clash, a long-drawn conflict, and a period of unnecessary contention. I understand being part of a close community, they are our family too, but, we can find other ways to give them all the love, care, and attention they need. 

I understand some of us have reasons to believe that external factors are adversely affecting our present-day situation. It would be stupid of us if we retaliate and jeopardize the future of Auroville to save ‘our’ present. Our job as temporary stewards, merely as a custodian of the idea of Auroville, is to always safeguard the future, even at the expense of sacrificing the present comforts. The impulsive belligerent behavior, as was on display yesterday, may cost us dearly, going forward.

I suggest, contrary to the mood of the evening yesterday, that we need to find ways to mend ties with the estranged office of the Auroville Foundation. I believe everyone needs an honorable exit from the ongoing logjam. I imagine, that if we, the residents, take steps to build bridges, we won’t become small in stature. If we showcase magnanimity and capacity to confront the situation positively, we may set forth a progressive domino effect. The results may take time and we may have to persevere. But, it will be worth the effort for the City the Earth needs. And, perhaps, if we take a few moments to turn once more inward, we may find our trying circumstances as an occasion for progress. We may become worthy of the place we dream of. 

I appeal to the goodwill of the residents of Auroville to find peaceful means to counter the external factors. I appeal to my brothers and sisters in Auroville to choose positivity over gloomy destructive narratives. I appeal to my friends and foes in Auroville to always uphold Auroville’s progress over personal prosperity.

Ranting again? Maybe, sorry!
All in good faith, nothing personal.

Love,
LD