Home > Response to BBC broadcast - Zackaria Moursi
May 27 th 2008 To BBC
As someone who has spent a year working in Auroville, I would like to comment on your Newsnight documentary of May 21st. Viewers who do not know Auroville, upon watching the documentary, may be led to think: "Ah, here again is one of those weird sects, deluded by some ideal or the other, but only living in dissolution and perversion. Allow me to point out a few aspects that may have escaped your short-time reporter on her visit to Auroville:
1) The community of Auroville is not a sect, nor even a homogeneous group; it is mostly a mix of individuals from the four corners of the world who came to Auroville at different points in time, each with their own background, situation, hopes and plans. One third of the current population are Indians, they are probably the most homogeneous part of the community.
2) Most Aurovilians were drawn to an Ideal for whom they were ready to cut with past existences and often to leave their families behind. In the beginning, life in Auroville was extremely harsh. Most Aurovilians today have to work hard to cope with the challenges of creating a new existence in a new environment. The Auroville Beach is a thin strip, about 1 km long and 200 meters wide, and is by no means representative for Auroville. Auroville is rather composed of 95 residential settlements scattered over an area of 20 km2.
Most Aurovilians cannot afford the tourist attractions of their own township. It is only in recent years that tourism in Auroville has taken large proportions, and it has been a mixed blessing for the township. Though tourism is a welcome source of income, it often distracts the residents from their main goal of inner work and growth, and it brings with it the kind of problems you have mentioned in your documentary.
3) One of the tenants of Auroville has always been to live according to inner guidance and truth and not according to laws and regulations. The community has, therefore, no law enforcement and no police of its own. Though Auroville has a special status within India , it is on Indian soil, so naturally law and order are in the hands of the Indian authorities. There is little Aurovilians can do to check and control the intentions or the behaviour of the tourists.
The factors I have mentioned all combine to make Auroville an easy target for misuse by adventurers and tourists seeking to have fun at low cost. Encouraged by the hospitality and mildness of the Tamil people, by the beauty and achievements of Auroville and by the relatively low prices, tourists arrive at Auroville, who know or care very little about its ideals. The incidents you have reported are indeed very sad and run against the very grain of Auroville. I hope your documentary will prompt more vigilance and determination to put an end to such misuse.
As an admirer of BBC programming, I would like to express the wish that you may take up Auroville again in a documentary that looks more in depth at Auroville and its origins. Auroville is one of the greatest and most successful experiments in intentional living, and as such deserves such an attention. Such a documentary would be of particular interest to the British viewers when they know that Aldous Huxley recommended Sri Aurobindo for the Nobel prize in 1948, and that Sri Aurobindo spent his childhood in England and was a graduate of Cambridge. Romain Rolland described him as the "most complete synthesis of the genius of Asia and Europe that has hitherto been achieved".
It would be great if in a next documentary your reporter would interview some of the pioneers and true workers of Auroville who have dedicated decades of their lives trying to prepare a better world, the "Life Divine" of Sri Aurobindo. Your reporter would quickly see the failings and mistakes of the community, those that the Aurovilians themselves freely acknowledge. But maybe instead of blaming the Aurovilians for the things they have left undone, your reporter would have a word of recognition and encouragement for what has been achieved and done. Zackaria Moursi, Ph D Nile University , Cairo , Egypt
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