Tuesday, June 17, 2008

None of this work in Auroville for the common good is mentioned in the video

Home > Response to BBC broadcast - Heidi Watts
Antioch University New England
May 30, 2008

I am writing to express my concern about the slander and misrepresentation in your one-sided report on sexual allegations in Auroville, which was aired on Wednesday, May 21.

I am a professor at the Antioch University New England Graduate School in Keene , New Hampshire . For over fifteen years, our campus has been engaged in a partnership with Auroville, which facilitates informal exchanges between teachers and students in Auroville with teachers and students at Antioch University New England. These exchanges occur between all of the schools in Auroville, both those operated for members of the Auroville community and those sponsored by Aurovilians to serve the local village children.

New Creation Bilingual School has always been a part of this informal exchange program. As the liaison and chief representative of the Auroville/Antioch New England partnership, I spend approximately three months a year in Auroville and have often spent weeks at a time living in the community of New Creation. I can say unequivocally that there is no tolerance for abuse of any kind, sexual or otherwise, in the Auroville communities. Auroville schools, in fact, are distinguished from the village schools because all physical punishment is forbidden.

The boundaries between Auroville and the villages are permeable, and indeed, hardly visible. It is quite possible for strangers who are not Aurovilians to make contact with children in or around the villages without being in any way visible to or under the control of Auroville, and it may be that there is some abuse in these areas beyond Auroville jurisdiction, as there would be in any town or city in the world. Whenever there is any hint or allegation of sexual abuse within the jurisdiction of Auroville, it is immediately investigated. If the charges are substantiated, the perpetrators are asked to leave the community and their behavior is reported to the police. There have been instances of vindictive and unsubstantiated charges, as in any society, and these have been dealt with appropriately.

It would be impossible for me or any other representatives from Antioch University to live and work in the New Creation Community, or any community in Auroville for that matter, without being aware of sexual abuse on the scale that is described as fact in this video. Outsiders visiting New Creation invariably comment on the eagerness with which the children come to school, their broad smiles, laughter and air of security. This is not a description of children who are exploited or abused - quite the contrary. The schools in Auroville, which are run for the benefit of the village children, charge no fees and are completely supported by the charity of Aurovilians, international organizations and individuals.

Part of the mission of Auroville is to support and assist the native populations in the bioregion. Auroville Schools for village children are one response to this call. Social outreach into the villages in the form of preschools, women's self-help groups and health services are another. So also are the extraordinary experiments in sustainability; in reforestation, locally appropriate agriculture, water conservation, erosion control and alternative forms of energy for which Auroville is famous. This research is designed to be of service to the community, the bioregion, India and the planet.

None of this work in Auroville for the common good is mentioned in the video. Auroville is depicted as a self-indulgent, isolationist community of foreigners “without rules or money”. In the Auroville I know, there are many everyday rules, from consensual understanding about traffic patterns and urban development to the simple guidelines and regulations that make it possible to administer schools, dental and health services, a commissary, art and architecture programs, and public services. Many of the Aurovilians I know live on less than $100 a month. To enable the society to function smoothly, there are rules in Auroville and there is money. But the aspiration of Auroville is to create an intentional community without barriers of race, religion or creed, which will allow each individual to develop to his or her full potential and at the same time to create a society dedicated to human unity and the common good. The depiction of Auroville as a hotbed of perversion and cultural insensitivity is a total travesty.

I hope that you will require your research team to substantiate the allegations that are made in this report, or to make a full and public retraction.

Sincerely yours,

Heidi Watts, Ph.D.
Antioch University New England
Home > Response to BBC broadcast - Heidi Watts

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