STORY OF DECEIT: ANOTHER “VATICAN” AUROVILLE STATE HERE?
France was another great imperial power who decolonized after the Second World War although her reasons and methods were quite different from Britain. “Whereas the British realized the colonies were beginning to become a burden the French believed they had to re-assert their national prestige by keeping control of their colonies. This may explain why the French experience of decolonization was so different to Britain. French decolonization was bloody and bitter whereas Britain was quite peaceful and quite painless. France fought two costly and bloody wars over her colonies. The first of these was in Indo-China, which had been under French rule since the 19th Century. During the Second World War Indo-China was invaded and occupied by the Japanese. Vietminh led by Ho Chi Minh fought a guerrilla war against the Japanese. At the end of the Second World War the French intended to retake control of Indo-China but before they could the Vietminh declared independence. Fighting broke out in 1946 and continued for eight years before the French suffered a massive defeat at Dien Bien Phu. This was the decisive point of the war with an armistice being signed soon after. France had lost much in the war including 91,000 men and their colony”.
“France’s African Empire started to decolonize after the humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu as riots spread across the French African states. France realized she could not hold her empire together anymore and begun decolonizing. All the French African colonies were granted their independence between 1956 and 1960 with the exception Algeria. Algeria held a unique place within the French Empire as it had been formally integrated into France thus making it not a colony but a part of France itself”.
“An armed rebellion led by the F.L.N. (Front d’Liberation National) in 1954 led to bloody civil war in Algeria. In 1958 General de Gaulle was persuaded to come out of retirement to end the conflict in Algeria. Charles De Gaulle realized that France could not win the war and that it would be a major strain on the economy to continue it. He begun talks for independence and he and the F.L.N. leader signed a settlement in 1962”.
French dream to colonize Pondicherry:
History of French in India is a monumental work written by Colonel G.B.Malleson, which narrates the events that lead to the founding of Pondicherry in 1674 to the capture of that place in 1761. In the reign of Louis XII, in the year 1503, two ships of the merchants of Rouen took to seas and were never heard thereof. This marks the first French attempt to set foot on Indian soil. Though many had the urge nothing concrete emerged. On June 1 1604 “a company was established under Kings letters patent, granting it exclusive trade for 15 years.” This also failed to take of due to faction feuds among the founders. 7 years later Louis XIII tried again in vain to activate the company. During 1615 two merchants sought transfer of the company to them, which was stiffly opposed by the company. Hence as compromise formula the King created a coalition of both sides and conferred on July 2, 1615 letters patent. The next year two ships set to sail to India. Commodore de Nets was in charge of the big vessel and Captain Antoine Beaulieu of the smaller vessel. The Dutch crew in Beaulieu’s ship obeying the diktats of their government left the vessel of Beaulieu. And Beaulieu had to dispose the ship and join the vessel of Commodore de Nets. In spite of all such travails the venture was profitable. So the company launched 3 more vessels on trip to India. “Montmorenci” with 162 men, 22 guns with 450-ton capacity, L’Esperance with 117 men, 26 guns and 400-ton capacity, “L’Hermitage” with 30 men, 8 guns and with 75-ton capacity, were placed under Beaulieu’s chief command. In that trip the Dutch sank L’Hermitage. Next 20 years no further efforts to reach east were undertaken. In 1642 a new company “La Compagnie des Indes with Richelieu was launched but before ships could set to sail he passed away. A resting place mid way to Indes became their passion. The first French vessel to Madagascar reached its shores in summer of 1642.The local people resisted French settlers. The company had to incur heavy losses in combating local people and ultimately gave up its claims to Madagascar in 1672.
In 1664 French “Compagnie des Indes” with a capital of 15,000,000 livres was formed. A charter by the Government granted the company exclusive rights for 50 years to trade with India with total exemption from taxation. Government also agreed to reimburse all losses if any. They first went for Madagascar. On March 7, 1665 with four ships and 520 men. They changed its name to Isle Dauphin. Earlier Portuguese had called it Saint Lawrence. The local revolt against French occupation continued and culminated in the fierce massacre of almost all within the walls of Fort Dauphine.
These abortive attempts gradually led to French setting foot on Indian soil and making it a colony of France.
Reason for India becoming a destination:
Why do all colonialists set their eye on India? It is needless here to narrate how French obtained a foothold on Indian soil and how they later became rulers. It is vital to know why India was colonized, be it by the British, French and the Portuguese?
“The East India Company was founded in 1600 to sell British woolen cloth to India. Their ships arrived in Surat in 1608 with vast quantities of broadcloth but the trade soon faltered and died out. What changed their fortunes was the discovery of cotton, which was completely unknown in the west,” says Ms. Crill who had coauthored a book Trade, Temple and Court: Indian Textiles from Tapi Collections.
Another author of the same book Ms.Ruth Barnes states that “Textile trade surfaces repeatedly in the social and economic histories of these times. For centuries textiles were crucial currency in the Indian Ocean trade. If you wanted a piece of the spice trade in the 14 th century, you did not have a chance unless you showed up in the Eastern Indonesia with high quality textiles.” Well these textile scholars have stated one reason for India being a popular destination for colonialists. Colonialists came to market their products but were drawn towards buying Indian fabrics. “ Millions of Indian cotton arrived in England at that time, so much so that the wool and linen weavers began to protest and a law prohibiting Indian textiles was passed in 1700” says Rosemary Crill of the V&A Museum, London in her book.
Decolonization of French India:
Let me quote verbatim the last rituals performed for decolonizing Pondicherry as written in the book Decolonization of French India, since I do not want to be drawn in controversies by writing a new version myself. “The procedure incorporated into the joint communiqué, which was simultaneously published from New Delhi and Paris, ran as follows Desirous of reaching a final settlement on the question of the French establishments in India, The government of India and the Government of the French Republic through their representatives in Delhi has engaged in negotiations. As a result of these negotiations the two governments have agreement on the following procedure. All elected members of the representative assembly and the Municipal Councils of the establishments will be met at a Congress on October 18 in the settlement of Pondicherry to consider the joint proposals of the two governments for a final settlement of the future of the settlements and record their decision on these proposals as an expression of the wishes of the people”.
“An arête of the Commissaire de la Pepublique was published on 11 October in the Journal official of Pondicherry with a view to acquainting the people the conditions of the consultation. The Pondicherry Government issued summons to the elected municipal members of the south Indian settlements and the Representative assembly to meet at Kizhur about 10 miles on the border of west of Pondicherry on 18 October at 10 o’clock to decide the future of the French settlements in India”.
“The members of the four settlements whose election was valid up to 1 st January 1954 had been asked to vote on that day either for the continuation of French rule in these settlements or for merger of these settlements with the Indian Union. The importance of the Congress and the necessity of the members to attend the Congress were expressed in a circular, which was signed by the Secretary General for French India and dispatched to the elected members accompanied by the topographical map of the place where the congress was to be held together with the admission card. There was a proposal to hold the congress at karaikal, but that was set aside. Kizhur, a tiny hamlet situated in Indian Territory was finally chosen in order to avoid the disturbances, which the presence of Goubert and Muthupillai might have provoked if the congress had been held at Pondicherry. Balasubramanian, President of the Representative Assembly acted as presiding officer of the Congress. Out of 178, 170 members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the merger with Indian Union and 8 voted against. The results were declared in the presence of Pierre Landy and Kewal Singh. The period of suspense was over”.
“The usual scene of excitement tension and violence, which had tainted previous elections in French India, was totally absent here in this hamlet. It was so to speak a parody of consultation. France had to agree to this as a sop to satisfy her constitutional requirements and India had to accept this verdict given by the members of the municipal councils and representative assembly whose elections she had protested as irregular. The signing of the treaty at New Delhi on 21 October followed this. The remaining 10 days witnessed the French India authorities make hectic preparations for total withdrawal from Pondicherry and Karaikal. As fixed earlier Escargueil left Pondicherry for France on 31 st October handing over charge to Pierre Landy. The French national flag was removed from the top of the Governors house in the evening of the same day. On 1 November of 1954 at 6.45 in the morning a document of transfer was signed between Pierre Landy representing France and Kewal Singh, Indian Consul general and Indian Commissioner designate in the official residence of the former. In Karaikal too Boucheney aided by Duvauchelle, an Officer of the foreign department who had recently arrived here, handed over power to the India administration”
“Immediately after this the Indian national flag was unfurled over the government house to the tumultuous ovation of thousands of people who had gathered there marking the close of seven-year tortuous negotiations. Throughout the day there was jubilation everywhere in Pondicherry, In Karaikal, in Mahe and in Yenam and the rest of India in this hour of joy. As a result of the historic decision taken at kizhur more than 3 lakh people rejoined their mother country India at the dawn of 1 November thereby ending 240-year-old French rule on the four settlements of South India”.
The people of India welcomed the residents of the erstwhile French settlements into the larger fold of Indian citizenship. “A part of India separated from the motherland is coming back to us on its own freewill” Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Rajendra Prasad said “we shall be equal partners in a common endeavor to work for the progress and prosperity of India” The congress of Kizhur facilitated the dissolution of French colonial rule in the French pockets, but French sovereignty over them continued legally till dejure transfer had taken place in 1962.
FRENCH AND FRENCH CITIZENS IN INDIA PRESENT STATUS:
The colonial rule created a new class of citizens, Indian born yet French citizens by option. These Indians have roots in Pondicherry but have their work and homes in France. For those left in the soil of Pondicherry France has constitutional arrangements to look after the interests of Indian born French citizens. This arrangement is unique and deserves close appraisal.
The notification issued by the Rastrapathi Bhavan recently had stated that hereafter the Ministry of Non Resident Indians will be named as Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in English and Pravasi Bharatiya Karya Mantralaya in Hindi. But within our country we have residing Non Resident French citizens but who Indians by birth but French citizens are by option. It will be interesting to compare with what French does for Overseas French affairs. When French left their former colonies, they left large sections who opted to become French citizens. There are more than 20 million French citizens living abroad in various former French colonies including Pondicherry, which is a Union Territory under Indian Union.
One hundred and fifty five delegates are elected by direct universal suffrage by the French communities abroad for a period of 6 years and this body is presided by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France. French citizens in America elect 32 delegates and from Africa 47 seats thus the total of “A series of constituencies” is 79. In “B series” there are 76 seats and the break up is 52 seats from Europe and from Asia-Oceania and the Orient 24. Within these 24 seats two are chosen from Pondicherry. Half of the Electoral College is renewed every 3rd year.
All former colonies are divided into 52 electoral districts, with one or more delegates per district. A country may have several electoral districts, just as an electoral district may cover several countries.
French people residing abroad through their 155 representatives elect twelve Senators to French Parliament. They get elected one-third at a time for 8 years in 2004 and for 7 years in 2007 and for 6 years from 2010.Twelve personalities appointed by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs for six-year terms “by reason of their competence in matters concerning the general interests of France abroad”. They are renewed one-half at a time every three years.
The Constitution of 27 October 1946 (IVth Republic) stipulated that the new Parliament would comprise a National Assembly and a “Council of the Republic” (as the Senate was called until 1958) within which “the French of the Exterior” would be represented. This may be like our lower and upper houses in Parliament. The National Assembly pondered and decided how to effect this representation. It decreed, in a resolution dated 13 December 1946, that three “Councillor of the Republic” seats (out of 320) would go to personalities representing Non Resident French citizens living in Europe, America and Asia-Oceania-Orient respectively.
For more than two decade the following associations were looking after the interests of Non Resident French citizens in Paris. They are the Union of French Chambers of Commerce Abroad, the French Overseas Teachers Association, the Non-Resident French War Veterans Federation, and the Overseas French Union (Union des Français de l´étranger, UFE), founded in 1927. These four bodies mooted a suggestion for creation of a “high council” by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The then Prime Minister, Robert Schuman, and his Foreign Minister, Georges Bidault signed a Decree setting up the High Council for French People residing abroad. on 7 July 1948.
The first High Council was composed of 55 members: 8 ex officio members (the three Senator-Councillors of the Republic, the president and director of the UFE, the presidents of the Chambers of Commerce, of the Teachers Association and of the War Veterans Federation, 42 elected officials, and 5 members nominated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”.
The first CSFE elections of 1950 were held in seventy countries of Europe, America, Asia and Oceania, according to a protocol defined in a Ministerial Decree dated 10 December 1949 and signed by Robert Schuman..
Article 24 of the Constitution of 25 September 1958 states, “French nationals settled outside France shall be represented in the Senate.” Two Executive Orders were issued, on 15 November 1958 and 4 February 1959 respectively, for organizing this representation and providing the CSFE with new status. The CSFE, while retaining its advisory role, became the sole Electoral College for electing Senators from abroad.
Their numbers increased from three to six, two representing Europe and America, one representing Asia-Oceania and three representing Africa. It was thus divided into three sections for the Senatorial elections of 23 April 1959. The CSFE had 84 elected members but it became clear that Europe and America were under-represented in comparison with Africa. The number of Senators was therefore brought up to nine for 1962 elections.
After the creation of the Democratic Association of French Citizens Abroad (Association Démocratique des Français à l´Etranger – ADFE) in 1980, the CSFE was reconstituted in 1982. The Act of 7 June 1982 paved way for the election by universal suffrage of Delegates to the CSFE, which (with the exception of twenty-one members chosen for their competence but not having Senatorial voting rights) was no longer a body of appointed personalities. And the election of twelve Senators thereafter is only by the elected members of the CSFE.
The AFE is entrusted by law with the task of advising the Cabinet. The Minister of Foreign Affairs defines the objectives and priorities of the assembly chaired by him. The Senators place before the Senate, the National Assembly and the Economic and Social Council the propositions, motions, resolutions and wishes expressed by their electors. The twelve Senators, ex officio members of the AFE, can introduce Bills or legislative amendments reflecting the hopes and needs of French people living around the world.
British left India satisfied with getting 2 nominated M.P Seats in the Loksabha for Anglo-Indians. France did not plead for seats in the legislature for Franco-Indians. It worked out the above stated arrangements to manage the Indian born French nationals.
Problems galore left by colonial legacy:
In the colonies, decades, in some countries centuries of colonial rule had resulted in major changes. In many cases, the borders of the colonies had been unilaterally drawn by Colonial powers with little regard for ethnicity and history. The border disputes India has with its neighbours is a left over of the colonial legacy. The contiguity of Pondicherry is missing and the enclave territories separated by miles scattered as dots remain in Indian map, which is also an issue of the colonial legacy and poses problem for gaining statehood to be on par with other Indian states.
We in India are still facing the issues left by the colonial legacy. Let us see the experience of Singapore and Malaysia and the issues which will be of importance too from our standpoint. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore stated once that “ empires never last forever, that either the master and subject races finally merged to a unified society or the empire ends with subject races clashes violently and finally emerging as separate nation and entity.” Ironically, his statement can equally be applied to the independent country of Malaysia where race and racial issues are still a sensitive and election issue. Ethnocentrism was and is still not something that can ever be stamped out.
The Kingdom at a Crossroads written by Marijke van der Meer tells the story of Surinam. In the late 18th century the British swapped their South American colony – now known as Surinam – for Manhattan, and then controlled by The Netherlands. For many years the Dutch reckoned they had the better of the of the deal, after all the British lost Manhattan quite quickly, while Surinam only gained its independence in on November 25 1975.
Professor Oostindie opines that there was not enough time to find solutions too many of Surinam’s long standing issues. “The Dutch government did whatever was necessary to accomplish independence,” he says, “basically this was done by not solving several problems such as the border dispute with Guyana. They offered more development aid than had been conceived of before and they said that all Surinamers, even five years after independence, would be eligible for Dutch nationality, stimulating an exodus to The Netherlands. Today there are just over 400,000 people in Surinam but there are 300,000 people of Surinamese descent in The Netherlands. The whole demographic growth of this nation has been in The Netherlands rather than Surinam. The offer of French citizenship to people of Pondicherry origin by the French created a similar exodus which needs a comparative study.
AUROVILLE INTERNATIONAL CITY
By historical accident India became a colony. It won independence. In British India, all became Indian citizens. But in French India, we still have French citizens of course Indian born. No one will find fault with this accidental occurrence of history. But they are not voting in Indian elections, but are electing Representatives to work under Foreign Ministry of French Parliament. Even this if we have to brush aside as accident of history, there is no need for international city. While the Mother of Ashram was alive lot of people donated their properties all over the India. She only registered a Trust in India’s Vanur Taluk, since there were no Trust laws in French India. Later after French India merged with Indian Union, she registered Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, inclusive of properties in and around Pondicherry. But all the properties throughout India were with Sri Aurobindo Society, a Marwari dominated society, under whose control Auroville was initiated, which ended in mismanagement and take over by Government of India. The Mother of Ashram hails from France and learnt occultism in Egypt. We have strong reservations about her international city concept. We link that dream to the other legacies left over by colonial rule, like French nationality which participates in French elections. Having lost French India, through her, France could have thought of bringing French men to reside in an international city. To practice yoga, many ashrams exist in India. Even along the East Coast Road, builders are planning New Cities, to meet the housing demand of growing population. This international city does not belong to that type of cities. Those cities are open to anyone who buys property there. But here they don’t admit Tamils as residents, allow mostly foreigners as residents, thereby sustaining the suspicion that this is another colony of the west in our midst.
POLITICS OF ANARCHY:
What political organization do you want for Auroville? To this question Mirra Alfasa replies: An amusing definition occurs to me: A divine anarchy. But the world will not understand. Men must be conscious of their psychic being and organize themselves spontaneously, without fixed rules and laws- that is the ideal. (Source: Draft II of a working paper on an international organization for Auroville September 2001)
Mirra Alfasa, as you said world in your time may not understand the DIVINE ANARCHY let loose by you, but in present day even a LKG child will understand that you are against the laws of the land and want to create a lawless society.
A global campaign to raise $ 1 million or 5 crores by Mother’s birthday on 21 st February 2004. (From 1 st January to November 2003 $ 550.000 has been donated) This is twice the amount Land Fund usually receives in a year. An excellent boost for Land Fund, and the equivalent of about 65 acres of precious land for Auroville. (Source: Land Fund News Letter number 31 November- December 2003)
If $ 550,000 dollars can buy 65 acres what price is for 1 acre, and whether that price goes to the actual owner?
A SEPARATE CURRENCY
The mere idea of a separate currency for a community within India is the first step to establish a city state like Vatican here. Out of 191 member states of the world in United Nations, Vatican has opted out to remain outside the purview of UN, in spite of enjoying a status of a separate country. Similarly Aurovillians want to keep Auroville outside India and its constitution. THE FIRST STEP TO INTRODUCE AUROSE, a legal tender for Auroville is in place. (Source: Auroville News April 7 th 2001)
Who is the Finance Minister of this new state, not born out of Tamil extremism but a product of Auro extremism?
EMBASSY IN DELHI:
The newly yet to be independent country or a princely state or a colony of Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh’s son Karan Singh intends to open an embassy in the National capital of Delhi. “There is a possible opening for an Auroville “embassy” in Delhi through the possible help from Indian Habitat Centre.” (Source: Auroville News Feb 19 th 2000)
Before attaining freedom from India Auro extremists want an embassy. Will government of India allow Nagaland and other claimants of separate nations to open an embassy in Delhi?
All these questions need a national debate. Let Aurobindo Ashram and Matrimandir along with followers of Aurobindo become one entity, one unit, one Trust or one Ashram, and let them live as Ashramites preaching their philosophy like other Ashrams in India. They can build ashrams from Kashmir, where Dr.Karan Singh will willingly donate his palace, to Kanyakumari. No one will object that. But the International City concept creates suspicion that it contains seeds like Vatican type state, and this should not be allowed, that too under a Government of India organization, answerable to Indian Parliament in letter and spirit. We cannot be taken for a ride by Utopian dreams that undermines our nation’s sovereignty. It was a dream to house 50,000 but after 40 years only 1619 people reside. Hence international city is dead, why does Indian Government sustain a dead city concept. Let Auro village become Auroashram.
N.Nandhivarman General Secretary Dravida Peravai