Thursday, May 29, 2008

The BBC film is peppered with malicious innuendo in an attempt to show the truth of the allegations

Home > WC statement on BBC broadcast
Statement

On May 21 st , the BBC aired a nine-minute video on Auroville in its programme NEWSNIGHT.
The video focuses on allegations that some Aurovilians and Auroville guests engage in sexual activities with minor children from the surrounding villages and that Auroville does nothing about it.
The film is an outrageous piece of tabloid journalism, put together with the sole objective to produce a sensational story. The journalist has not verified the truth of the allegations which are unsubstantiated and unproven. Neither has the journalist checked the motives and credibility of the interviewees. They have since been identified as persons who have been asked to leave Auroville in the past for reasons of misbehaviour and therefore bear a grudge. The film is peppered with malicious innuendo in an attempt to show the truth of the allegations.
No opportunity has been given to any Auroville authority to refute the statements. Only after strong protests from both the Working Committee and Auroville International UK did the BBC agree to include a short interview with a member of the Working Committee. This interview was tagged on to the video and aired after it, and is therefore far less persuasive then if it would have been included within the film itself.

Auroville runs various schools for village children, which have been co-financed by both DFID and the European Commission and as such have come under the scrutiny of a wide range of people during project evaluations, as well as the Education Department of the Govt. of Tamil Nadu and the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Govt. of India. If child abuse was happening as claimed in the video, it would have been investigated, given the high ethical and operational expectations they hold of Auroville.
Auroville has zero tolerance towards sexual activities with minors and does not tolerate such behaviour from Aurovilians or Auroville guests. As soon as information about such activities comes to our notice, the matter is investigated and swift action is taken against the perpetrator who is made to leave Auroville and the Indian authorities are informed.

Auroville cannot control what happens in the surrounding area. Many guest houses and private home-stays have come up in the villages and in Pondicherry , and we are not aware what happens there. Auroville is in regular contact with the local police authorities, as there is a tendency to attribute any unpleasant happening within the area as being of Auroville's doing, or in some way connected with Auroville's presence in the area.
We are taking legal action against the BBC for showing this film and making these harmful statements.

The Working Committee
23-05-2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Certain environmental or political catastrophes are waiting to happen, and around that time Auroville will become very interesting to people

Utopian community celebrates 40 years
Radio Australia Updated Fri May 23, 2008 10:15am AEST

For forty years on one utopian community in South India has attracted people from around the world looking for an alternative to the consumer society but now modernity is creeping up on the community and threatening to overwhelmit. Presenter: Alana Rosenbaum Speakers: Hemant Lamba of the Aureville Working Committee ending; Penny Fowler-Smith, ex Sydney filmmaker and Auroville resident; Johnny Allen, Auroville resident; Gillian Chvat, Auroville resident (sitar music)

ROSENBAUM: A recital at Auroville, an experimental township in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The musician fuses eastern and western conventions, playing a contemporary tune on the sitar, a stringed instrument traditionally used in classical Indian music.Auroville itself is a fusion of east and west. It's a settlement based on the teachings of the Indian guru Sri Aurobindo and his French disciple Mirra Alfassa, knownto devotees as the Mother. More than half of Auroville's 1,700 residents hail from abroad. The community's goal is nothing less than to expedite human evolution. Hemant Lamba is a member of the working committee.

LAMBA: Auroville symbolises the creation of an environment which is conducive for that growth; Mother named it the cradle of the superman, the superman being the next stage of the human being.

ROSENBAUM: Sydney filmmaker Penny Fowler-Smith settled in Auroville a year ago with her Dutch partner and their young daughter.

FOWLER-SMITH: I never planned on having kids actually, but when I was pregnant I thought, 'If I'm going to have a child I want to be around people, to raise her around people who are more interested in leading with the heart than with the head'.

ROSENBAUM: Auroville is a small township built around a temple known as the Matrimandir, a giant structure resembling a gilded golf ball. This year the community marks its 40th anniversary. Johnny Allen, who studied architecture at the University of New South Wales,played a key role in building up the town in the early 70s, after following his wife to India.

ALLEN: I was married young at 22 and we had a small child, Jan and I sort of lived as artists in Sydney; she had a small printing press and I used to drive a taxi and it was a pretty rough life for a while, and I think it got to a point where it was so rough and so hand-to-mouth that she packed up her baby and came to India.

ROSENBAUM: But many pioneering Aurevillians travelled to India on a spiritual quest. Gillian Chvat left Australia as a teenager in the mid-70s. At Auroville, she helps provide sanitation to the surrounding villages.

CHVAT: I have no idea what my life would have been in Australia or some other place as an uneducated, unqualified person what I would have done or how I would have found that sort of self-expression.

ROSENBAUM: The region surrounding Auroville is undergoing rapid change. Wealthy Indians are buying up land near the township for holiday houses. Tourists are also converging in greater number. The Indian government plans to build a train station and airport near Auroville, but residents discourage visitors and oppose the move. Auroville itself is also rapidly evolving. In the early days, the township was a series of huts. Today, although no one actually owns real estate, many residents pay tobuild big houses staffed by servants. Allen, who still sleeps in a mud-brick house on the fringes of Auroville,, envisaged a simpler township.

ALLEN: I would have liked to have seen Auroville develop with self-sustainability as its highest priority and it was, in the beginning. The initial community that lived here was a small group of people who were fired up by the 60s ethic of build your own house, grow your own food, educate your own children, we can do it, we don't need any restraints from tradition, and so along those lines it would have been great if Auroville had become a little organic village full of mud village.

ROSENBAUM: But for many, the real disappointment of Auroville is the size of its population. The township intended for 50,000 people has only 1,700 residents.But Lamba says the social experiment is still in its early days.

LAMBA: The first 40 years have been establishment of a base, now onwards the next stage has already begun, it's to build a city and we will wait, there are certain environmental or political catastrophes that are waiting to happen, and around that time Auroville will become very interesting to people.

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The Auroville administration has dismissed the BBC film alleging child abuse in its premises as “an outrageous piece of tabloid journalism”

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Auroville: an article you should definitly check By Purnima Published May 25, 2008 Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , ,

Maybe, or most likely, many diaspories share the same sentiment as me when watching an Indian on TV while being in the West. No matter how insignificant his or hers appearance is I always tend to jump up call my mother and point as loony as possible to my ‘bloodbrothers and sisters’ whenever they appear on the idiotbox.
Indjuns, South Asians, the places where I lived orhave some sort of relationship with. Whenever they appear on the screen I want to roar: I’ve been there and tell everybody what’s it like, what’s it really like .
(Of course no soul could possibly tell anything real about anything but that should not stop any of us.)
Visheshur (I want to fly too) asked me some weeks ago what’s Auroville like. If it wasn’t for a briljant article about Auroville from one of the correspondents of the BBC I would probably never have answered his question the way I wanted too. When I read this article last night I had my ‘Hey Auroville in the news’ moment and decided to have my say on what I think Auroville is like.
“Some call it the giant golden golf ball, and the description is just right. The Matrimandir - literally the temple of the Mother - is a huge eight-sided almost-spherical building.”
I think it looks more like a spaceship. Some of the other visitors thought it was peculiar that while so much of poverty is in the near vincinty of Auroville a building consisting out of gold plates could be erected. Perhaps it’s the same ‘Ambani could have just bought her a few dresses instead of a plane logic’ but it still seems odd. As many other views on helping seems odd over here.
“It is surrounded by carefully manicured lawns, something of an achievement in arid southern India, and visitors are allowed in only by special appointment.”
It’s one of the things that makes the matrimandir defenitly worth a visit. The lawns around the matrimandir are absolutely lovely. Just sitting there watching that weird old golden globe does have it’s effects on you. It’s nice peacefull and quiet, at a distance.
“The mother was a French woman called Mirra Alfassa, who lived in nearby Pondicherry, a former French colony.”
This is probably one of the most irritating things of Auroville. No matter where you go you’ll see a picture of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Everywhere!
Smiling, sighing faces when almost whispering the words: ’The Mother’. Seriously folks it freaks the jeebies out of me! They have some sort of god status here and next to a picture of Jesus or the usual Hindu deities it’s quite common to find a picture of a big smiling Mother or a bored looking Aurobindo.
“I asked my French guide whether he thought the ideals of the mother had been realised. “For an ideal society,” he replied, “you have to have ideal people, and we don’t have ideal people.”
I mean like duh. Who listens to his mother anyways. (Sleeping with my eyes open tonight mom)
“The locals think it is not fair. They are the ones who work full-time, and often for less than the Aurovillians get in maintenance grants. I feel like a slave,” one of them told me. “Of course they do provide us with jobs,” he said, “but it’s very difficult for us local Tamils to become members.” “It’s like being back in the days of the British Raj,” said another.”
One of the residents here told me about what growing up here was like. The division, the treatment, the anger. I don’t know enough to make a judgement it’s the fair part what troubles me. They need the jobs they need the money but when is it slavery/exploitations and when is it providing jobs. One women who works in one of the homes I stayed previously earned 75 roepie for cleaning the apartment, the dishes and the laundry. I was told that I was helping her by letting her clean my apartment but how on earth could a person be helped with a wage that low. The more you stay in India and the more you find out how much people actually earn the more it just seems absurd that they manage to survive.
“They are allowed to get away with whatever they like, including paying our children to have sex with them, and we are powerless to complain.”
It’s strange to see this one actually written in black (red) and white. I heard the stories but thought they were from a ‘oeeeh things that cannot see the daylight happen in that horrible horrible Auroville over there’. One of the boys here kept bragging about the fact that the foreign girls just love Tamilian boys when I inquired about his girlfriend(s). I kept thinking about a movie made some years ago about elder women having a blast in sunny Ghana with the local boys from Ghana. I still wonder if it would be right or wrong to tell him it’s nothing to brag about.
The author of the article has a more clear picture of what is written on the fence. It says: Access to the beach for Aurovillians and their guests only.
Somewhat giddish, people call it the white peoples beach (most often white people themselves.) Which is what it is, a white peoples beach. The Indians have to take another (rather dirty - keep your stuff with you guys, gosh!!!) road to get to the beach. It felt and feels strange going to that beach with my white friends, my foreign appearence and my Indian genes. Somehow it just doesn’t feel right. The beach is absolutely lovely though…
To be fair Auroville does do a great deal for the local community; it employs 4000 people, runs schools for local children and has reforested an enormous area that was once a barren landscape.
For my work I have to drive all the way to Kottakarai, a village situated in the outer ring of Auroville. I experience it as a true blessing to have the opportunity to take that road to my work (even-though I fell down several times). The nature is so breathtakingly beautiful. To drive past the rice fields, the waving palm trees, the forests, the temples it’s really a feeling I will never forget.
The roads are maintained very well, just like may other Auroville projects. I was literally shocked when I saw a school for children (blog about that one later) nearby the Matri Mandir. The ecofriendly projects are really really exciting as well as some of the architecture. Auroville is worth a visit in many ways but do keep your sceptical hat on. At distance things are not always what they seem.
Hope I answered your question Visheshur.
14 Responses to “Auroville: an article you should definitly check”
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1 vishesh May 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm
yes you have the thing about about mother photo everywhere, well we have that in our home also (not me but others)..it is the Indian way of showing respect/love to a person.
I have heard stories about the divide. Infact when i visited Auroville(not for staying, just like that) i sensed a divide, the kind of feeling where you mind your business and i mine.. i am the kind of guy who likes to chat with people and meet new people but the tension was too much over come..
the India of an ideal society is fascinating, but the people should understand the ideals and it should be followed by people at all levels i think..
2 Nita May 25, 2008 at 2:08 pm
Oh my god! Purnima thank you for this article. I went to Pondi just a little while back and came across some ashtonishing racism. And I too had this same creepy feeling about the “Mother” everywhere. And as for Auroville, not surprising in my post I too described it as a spaceship…that’s exactly what it looks like! I am going to link this post to my article on Pondicherry where I have mentioned Auroville in brief. I could not write too much about Auroville as I didn’t know much…they wouldn’t really let us go in. That bbc article is also a great find. I am going to link that too…when I was writing my post, I was trying to find something to collaborate what I said, but hardly found anything. Thanks again for this wonderful piece. Auroville needs to be exposed for what it is. The atmosphere of the place has contaminated Pondicherry where we experienced racism in quite a few restaurants. two very obvious examples - Le Cafe and another called Le Terrace or something. Just terrible! It left a bitter taste in our mouth about Pondi.
3 Nita May 25, 2008 at 2:26 pm
The pingback hasn’t arrived, maybe it’s gone into your spam folder!
4 Nita May 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm
Oh,it’s arrived. Sorry for these many comments!
5 headz May 26, 2008 at 12:50 pm
Indian people are very spiritual that’s why there’s so many picture of the mother or Sri Aurobindo or any other Sri or Ama.
Stop seeing a secte everywhere, and stop spreading rumors you don’t know anything about.Did you know that Auroville is ‘managed’ by UNESCO, and watched by the indian government???
Do you think it’s just people doing what they wnat without any permission???
I’ll be ashamed to spread things like this about people who are doing quite some stuff for the surounding villages.
Have you really seen the video??? Do you really call it journalism ???
6 headz May 26, 2008 at 12:57 pm
just one more article find in an indian newspaper :
Deccan Chronicle :
Auroville rubbishes BBC paedophile story
Chennai, May 25: The Auroville administration has dismissed the BBC film alleging child abuse in its premises as “an outrageous piece of tabloid journalism” and threatened legal action against the BBC. Referring to the May 21 BBC TV show NewsNight, which had alleged that some Aurovilians and Auroville guests had engaged in child abuse, the Auroville working committee in a statement said the programme had featured “unsubstantiated” allegations with the “sole objective to produce a sensational story.”
Auroville runs several schools for the village children, which are co-financed by both DFID and the European Commission and so come under close scrutiny by government agencies. “If child abuse was happening as claimed in the video, it would have been investigated, given the high ethical and operational expectations they hold of Auroville,” the committee said.
Claiming that Auroville had “zero tolerance towards sexual activities with minors”, the committee said whenever a complaint was brought to notice, the matter was “investigated and swift action is taken against the perpetrator who is made to leave Auroville and the Indian authorities are informed.” Also, Auroville had no control over what happened in the surrounding area, where several guesthouses had come up. “Auroville is in regular contact with the local police authorities, as there is a tendency to attribute any unpleasant happening within the area as being of Auroville’s doing.”
7 Purnima May 26, 2008 at 2:11 pm
First off headz a warm warm and fuzzy welcome to my blog.
Headz said: Indian people are very spiritual that’s why there’s so many picture of the mother or Sri Aurobindo or any other Sri or Ama.
Indian people? So you’re their spokesmen? They had one? Manmohan quit his job. Very spiritual? Don’t make me laugh.
Don’t make Indians Laugh.
Headz said: Stop seeing a secte everywhere, and stop spreading rumors you don’t know anything about.
Nobody called it a sect just a strange place with a lot of contradictions. I’m a bit paranoid though and I do see sects everywhere. You belong to one?
Headz said: Did you know that Auroville is ‘managed’ by UNESCO, and watched by the indian government???
Honey do I seem that ingnorant? Well you caught me there I admit.
It’s not being watched by Delhi but by the Tamil Nadu government. Same difference.
Headz said: Do you think it’s just people doing what they wnat without any permission???
Generally I’m not thinking at all. After thinking I would answer you the same old answer. Every coin has two sides. Would you agree with me?
Headz said: I’ll be ashamed to spread things like this about people who are doing quite some stuff for the surounding villages.
Stop Blushing honey.
Headz said: Have you really seen the video??? Do you really call it journalism ???
No unfortunatly Auroville hasn’t done too much about the internet speed overhere or the surrounding villages.
Do you call the BBC a bad resource?
8 Purnima May 26, 2008 at 2:46 pm
Vish said: yes you have the thing about about mother photo everywhere,well we have that in our home also(not me but others)..it is the Indian way of showing respect/love to a person.
Bad joke my side. I know about the picture devotion tvgods and things like that. It’s just that these pictures somehow are more present and noticeable than others.
Vish said: I have heard stories about the divide. Infact when i visited Auroville (not for staying, just like that) i sensed a divide,the kind of feeling where you mind your business and i mine.. i am the kind of guy who likes to chat with people and meet new people but the tension was too much over come..the India of an ideal society is fascinating, but the people should understand the ideals and it should be followed by people at all levels i think..
I think Aurobindo’s visions and Mirra’s views are highly interesting but one should keep in mind that we are merely human.
You think we are able to evolve?
9 vishesh May 26, 2008 at 6:23 pm
lol,of late thats what i have been trying to understand…i am hoping to see evolution
10 manjari May 26, 2008 at 9:28 pm
Hey idli,I’m back on blogging with wordpress after a bit of a break (I’ll elaborate later) and it is great to see you in action again. I just wanted to say, in regard to your rebuttal to headz, you rock!
You are definitely a worthy opponent on the battlefield of written word– a fearless warrior with a geat sense of humor. It is daunting to envision being on the wrong side of your pen! Yet, your style of verbal conquest is so sincere and amusing that perishing under the wit of your words would be quite pleasant.
As far as Auroville and the Mother, well, I’ll have to ponder that for a while and see if I come up anything interesting to share. I have never been there but have read a bit about it. I really appreciate your candid look into it.
11 Purnima May 27, 2008 at 3:31 am
Manjari said: I’m back on blogging with wordpress after a bit of a break (I’ll elaborate later) and it is great to see you in action again.
Welcome back Darlin’ have been missing you around. Hope you had a good holiday.
Manjari said: You are definitely a worthy opponent on the battlefield of written word– a fearless warrior with a geat sense of humor. It is daunting to envision being on the wrong side of your pen! Yet, your style of verbal conquest is so sincere and amusing that perishing under the wit of your words would be quite pleasant.
Now you know you’re giving me too much credit. Worthly defeintely not, especially after reading your blog entries (your last post has me in tears right now, it’s really breathtaking - thanks for sharing that one) I wish I had a bigger vocubulary and didn’t make that much of grammar and spelling mistakes. Ah… why should petty little things like grammar stop me? En garde!
Again a warm welcome back in WordPress land!
12 former Puducherry resident May 27, 2008 at 8:12 am
I wish you’d highlighted the rampant paedophilai in the area in your post, Idli.
Headz sounda like a nutcase - and yes, Aurolville is a haven for lazy whites who need to hide from past wrongdoings in their home countries.
India + Sri Lanka are perfect safe havens for the beach bum varieties - policing is next to impossible, poverty breeds exploitation and there is the white supremacy fucked up attitude omni present. It’s up to you to see what lies beneath.
As for the BBC Newsnight report - saw it. Media is what it is. But I believe the adult former child-abuse victim as he described the horror he went through.
So - Headz and the rest of you ilk - strange that you don’t have the guts to post your real name. I’m sure there are people in some sectors who are very interested in why you’re in Auroville/surrounds!
13 Purnima May 27, 2008 at 10:08 am
FPR said: I wish you’d highlighted the rampant paedophilai in the area in your post, Idli.
Idli, Purnima all is fine. LOL! See what you did Manjari!
I don’t think I am in my right to highlight the rampant paedophealia (somebody help me with this word.. please) there are lots of rumours. I heard a few and that’s all. It’s the job of journalists, the government and the police to see what is actually happening there. Comming from me it would be just slander and nothing more. For me this is why this article was so interesting because it’s the first time I saw it actually spoken outloud and on the BBC webpage of all things. Meaning that the whole world is being notified.
The article made an impact, at least locally. Some experience it as a victory others as rubbish but the fact that the BBC published the article is I think what is causing all the stir.
FPR said: Headz sounda like a nutcase - and yes, Aurolville is a haven for lazy whites who need to hide from past wrongdoings in their home countries.
Here’s where I disagree a little bit with you. I don’t think terms as lazy whites are that entirely correct. Also not all of Auroville is bad, there are people with lots of goodwill, creative ideas and many projects here are doing a lot for the local people.
I understand your sentiments though and I think many (’white’ people as well) understand it too. It’s easy being taken advantage of when your choices are limited.
FPR said: So - Headz and the rest of you ilk - strange that you don’t have the guts to post your real name. I’m sure there are people in some sectors who are very interested in why you’re in Auroville/surrounds!
Hear, hear! But sweetey you didn’t share your name either. Thank you you for your comments. It’s nice to hear a view from another Pondi (say it former) resident.
1 Call it Puducherry or Pondicherry it’s still quite French « A wide angle view of India Trackback on May 25, 2008 at 2:26 pm

The scholar in me wants to move there right now and start research

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The right to do wrong May 27, 2008 11:17 AM Subscribe

Auroville Funded by Governments all over the world, the city of Auroville is an ongoing experiment 'whose stated purpose is to realize human unity in diversity' through yoga. Unfortunately, it seems the 'rule free' society has attracted some of the least welcome of humanity's outliers, namely child sex tourists.

Auroville is the biggest employer for the impoverished local Tamil population, which some would argue makes it likely that the local police might not be inclined to investigate abuse claims very thoroughly. Aurovillians pay no tax and benefit from 2/3 of the profit from any commercial enterprise, as well as receiving a maintenance grant from the government which is more than the locals earn by working a full day. Is Auroville simply an extension of the usual colonial european behaviour in Asia, or a bold experiment?It was quite difficult to find any online information about Auroville that was not directly attributable to an Auroville resident. Subsequently, the links are not un-biased. Thanks to hadjiboy for the 'Bizarre Childhood' link. posted by asok (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

If you can only keep 2/3 of the profits of your commercial enterprise, you're not paying "no tax." posted by grobstein at 11:37 AM on May 27
Child sex tourists? I personally don't like the idea of children traveling to India to get laid, but that's just my opinion. posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:41 AM on May 27
I guess this answers the question of what child sex tourist do with their frequent flyer miles. posted by socalsamba at 11:51 AM on May 27

it seems the 'rule free' society has attracted some of the least welcome of humanity's outliers, namely child sex tourists. Crikey. "Seems" being the operative word, for sure. The "child sex" link contains no such allegations, let alone evidence, and the "tourists" link connects to a BBC article that contains an unsubstantiated, detail-free, anonymously attributed blanket accusation. This is sloppy, sensationalistic journalism, further slanted by the framing in this post.

Full disclosure, I guess: I stayed a week in Auroville back in early 2006 with my wife and daughter while researching a book. I found it a fascinating mess of a place, a failed experiment barely clinging to its core ideals. It was indeed a place rife with hypocrisy and it contained some of the most deluded and flat-out full-of-shit people I've ever had the misfortune to meet.

That said, its population also contained compassionate, committed seekers and real innovators in organic farming and renewable energy. And we stayed at a guesthouse run by a French couple who'd grown up in Auroville - the wife had spent her early years in a local school, this before Auroville had established schools of its own, and she was in many ways as much Tamil as European. Anyway, they were by every observable measure model parents (and provided us with medicine to give to our baby daughter when she contracted a run-of-the-mill rotovirus). All of which is to say that while the whole Universal City and Matrimandir thing might reek of the worst kind of half-baked hippie-dippie utopian dreaming, there is real achievement to this community, and to make such corrosive allegations on one of the world's leading news networks with nothing more than an anonymous observer's unspecific allegation is fucking shameful. Find a victim ready to press charges or an investigative journalist with hard evidence, or retract the story for the libel that it is.

(Finally, FWIW, Sri Aurobindo was a fascinating historical figure - a veteran of the Bengali anti-imperial guerilla movement, among other things - and his philosophy and life are as rewarding as fields of study as Che's or Gandhi's.) Now please feel free to resume with your pedophilia one-liner contest, already in progress. posted by gompa at 11:53 AM on May 27 [6 favorites]

Now please feel free to resume with your pedophilia one-liner contest, already in progress.Will do. posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:59 AM on May 27
I'm not going to watch the BBC news video at work, but I want to know: does it include a more detailed investigation of the accusations than the text under the "tourists" link? Because that's an awfully thin piece of journalism, and I'm shocked that a responsible journalist would throw out such a weighty accusation without significantly more investigative work. posted by mr_roboto at 11:59 AM on May 27
Yeah this article echoes what I have heard about that place. I had a very good friend who lived and studied in Auroville. She had very high hopes. Perhaps her expectations were too high. She left depressed and disgusted at what she thought amounted to rich New Age Disneyland-like tourist bullshit awash in creepy men. posted by tkchrist at 12:13 PM on May 27
If they're "open to everyone" why is it so difficult for the locals to join? It seems like it would be a pretty sweet deal. What are the rules? Is there an education requirement? posted by delmoi at 12:17 PM on May 27
So... BioShock was a documentary? posted by LordSludge at 12:21 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]
This reads like something out of The Elementary Particles (the commune "Lieu du Changement") by Houllebecq, and just as polemical. Gompas point is well made: probably fucked up, but probably some good stuff happening there. Babies and bathwater (save me your one-liners). posted by lalochezia at 12:27 PM on May 27

If they're "open to everyone" why is it so difficult for the locals to join? It seems like it would be a pretty sweet deal. What are the rules? Is there an education requirement?"Open to everyone" is rhetorical more than realistic. In reality, you are required to live in Auroville for a year, largely on your own funds, during which time you're expected to find work or some other way to contribute socially etc. There's also a chronic housing shortage, so in practice, if you can't afford to build your own home and finance living in it indefinitely, there are very very few ways to join these days. Because of this, most new residents are early retirees from Europe. Finally, at the end of your probationary year, there is a committee hearing at which all Auroville members can discuss your worthiness or unworthiness as a permanent member, after which a yay-or-nay ruling is issued. posted by gompa at 1:03 PM on May 27
Fascinating. The scholar in me wants to move there right now and start research. posted by farishta at 2:37 PM on May 27
Children 10 and under join for free. posted by ryanrs at 5:25 PM on May 27
I spent a few months in Auroville last year taking photos for an article. I loved the place, but the more you focus on creating paradise, the more it's opposite will also appear. Much of me really wants to live there and I'll certainly be back in the future. There is certainly an issue of how the rich westerners can live alongside the poor local villagers. Some links from my blog: Auroville Music Party at Auroville More from Auroville! Free Expression Mother knows best Village Relations posted by BobsterLobster at 6:55 PM on May 27

There are at least 120 commercial enterprises making incense, clothes, silk paintings and so on

Local concerns over Indian utopia a full investigation by BBC Two's Newsnight into Auroville which includes a detailed response to the allegations from Carel Thieme of the Auroville Working Committee.
Some call The Matrimandir, the giant golden golf ball. Enlarge Image Auroville sounds like a throwback to the 60s, advocating no rules and leaders and promising peace and harmony, but Rachel Wright hears claims of exploitation and abuse at the southern Indian community.

Some call it the giant golden golf ball, and the description is just right. The Matrimandir - literally the temple of the Mother - is a huge eight-sided almost-spherical building.
It is surrounded by carefully manicured lawns, something of an achievement in arid southern India, and visitors are allowed in only by special appointment.
I joined a group of tourists, mainly Indians, who were being shown around by a middle-aged Frenchman called Gilles. It struck me as a little strange that a European was showing Indians round a town in their own country.
But then Auroville is a strange place. Gilles, who has lived there since the early 1980s had helped build the Matrimandir.
He enthused about the symbolism, about the symmetry, and about a woman known as the mother, while we stood under an enormous banyan tree, sheltering from the blistering south Indian sun.
The mother was a French woman called Mirra Alfassa, who lived in nearby Pondicherry, a former French colony.
She was a disciple of a well-known Indian philosopher called Shri Aurobindo, who had moved to the town after he was imprisoned under the British Raj.
Pixie dust
Sri Aurobindo believed that evolution was not at an end. The mother decided that Auroville would be where that evolution could continue, a universal town where people from around the world could live together in harmony and unity, without having to worry about food and shelter.
A place where there were no rules, no leaders and no money.
She proclaimed that at its centre would be the Matrimandir, the soul of Auroville. It was only finished this year, in time for the 40th anniversary.
Gilles took us inside. Everything was completely white; the carpets on the floor, the marble on the walls, even the socks we were given to wear so we would not dirty the floors.

We ascended a walkway to the upper chamber, and opened the door to see what was said to be the largest crystal in the world, lit by a single shaft of sunlight.
As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, specks of fluff rose up from the carpet twinkling like pixie dust.
We all sat down on mats in front of white pillars that did not actually connect to the ceiling.
Cushions were handed out to protect the columns from being marked when we lent against them. We sat in silence for 15 minutes.
The idea is not necessarily to pray, but rather to be quiet in a holy place.
As we walked out into a wall of heat, Gilles explained that the building of the universal town was going very slowly.
When they began in 1968 the plan had been for a city for 50,000, 40 years later there are only 2,000 people living there, two thirds of them Westerners.
I asked my French guide whether he thought the ideals of the mother had been realised.
Ideal society?
"For an ideal society," he replied, "you have to have ideal people, and we don't have ideal people."
"So how do you make them ideal?" I asked.
Well, the answer is, according to the philosophy of Auroville, through practising yoga. Later I asked Gilles whether there were some residents here less ideal than others.
"I'd get rid of half of them," he told me conspiratorially.

Around 4,000 people are employed at Auroville
Aurovillians receive a small maintenance grant, partly funded by the Indian government. In exchange they are supposed to volunteer for a few hours work every day, "the rest of the time they are seeking the divine", supposedly.
Actually, they are also in the business of making money, there are at least 120 commercial enterprises operating here, making incense, clothes, silk paintings and so on.
Under the rules, they can keep two-thirds of the profits and pay no tax.
The locals think it is not fair. They are the ones who work full-time, and often for less than the Aurovillians get in maintenance grants.
"I feel like a slave," one of them told me.
It's like being back in the days of the British Raj
Worker at Auroville
"Of course they do provide us with jobs," he said, "but it's very difficult for us local Tamils to become members."
"It's like being back in the days of the British Raj," said another.
Abuse claims
"They are allowed to get away with whatever they like, including paying our children to have sex with them, and we are powerless to complain."
To be fair Auroville does do a great deal for the local community; it employs 4000 people, runs schools for local children and has reforested an enormous area that was once a barren landscape.
But even the Aurovillian authorities admit that the community did in the mid-90s include a convicted paedophile.
They say they have strict procedures in place to deal with any incidents that might arise in the future.
Auroville is certainly a strange sort of place, but some way short, I would say, of being an ideal society.

Watch a full investigation by BBC Two's Newsnight into Auroville which includes a detailed response to the allegations from Carel Thieme of the Auroville Working Committee.
From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 24 May, 2008 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the
programme schedules for World Service transmission times.