Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Auroville is situated in an area where sex tourism is fairly common. Western women and children have been sexually abused by local Tamils

Home > Response to BBC broadcast - Janet Fearn
May 26 th 2008

I wish to register my deep disappointment at the shockingly biased and unresearched reportage about Auroville which appeared on your programmes Newsnight and From Our Own Correspondent. I never thought that the BBC would resort to a level of sensational journalism, which may do serious harm to the children and teachers of the Auroville schools for village children, about whom it appears to be so concerned. I wish to make the following points:

You accepted the word of someone with a deep grudge against Auroville, instead of finding an unbiased observer. Raj Batra was never a resident of Auroville. He was a tourist who hung around the area for a couple of years. When his views on a wide range of topics were not given the importance he wanted, he became extremely angry, and spent his time spreading gossip and rumours. His style of revenge is characteristic, but I would have expected a cheap tabloid and not the BBC to give him a platform.

Your reporter, Rachel Wright was not straight with the people she interviewed in Auroville. Never did she intimate that she was doing a report on sexual abuse. Aurovilians cooperated with her because she seemed like a reasonable person, and because she came from the BBC, which had a reputation for unbiased reporting. If Aurovilians had known what she was after, we might have advised her to look at the subject of sex tourism in context. Auroville is geographically situated in an area where sex tourism is fairly common, and the authorities don't do much about it. But in Auroville itself there is zero tolerance for the abuse of children, and the fact that we haven't caught every offender, who spends time in our community as quickly as we would have liked, is not because we have a tolerant view on the matter, as you have strongly implied. Also, as an additional point of information,n several Western women and children, both Aurovilian and guests of Auroville, have been sexually abused by local Tamils.

In the program "From Our Own Correspondent", your reporter said she found it strange for Indians to be shown around by a Westerner, showing that she didn't understand fully that Auroville is an international community, and positions are not based on a person's nationality, but on their capacity and experience. I wonder if she would have found it strange if she had been shown around the UN Headquarters in New York by someone from Ethiopia, or around Findhorn community in Scotland by someone from Germany .

It's too easy to compare the lifestyles of Aurovilians with those of the poorest Tamils around. We cannot possibly be responsible for uplifting the lives of the several hundred thousand people who live in our general area. However it might be interesting to compare the lives of people who have been associated with Auroville since the beginning, with those of people outside our geographical area. Many of the former have their own businesses and are doing very well economically, and their children are studying in Auroville, Pondicherry, or abroad. It also might be interesting for you to know that when Auroville started 40 years ago the people of our area were subsistance farmers, who ate two meals a day, if they were lucky, and they couldn't read or write.

Tagging a response from a member of our Working Committee to the end of the programme was not an effective way to balance your report, even if you have technically covered yourself against possible accusations of slander.
Yours sincerely,
Janet Fearn
Resident of Auroville since 1968
Home > Response to BBC broadcast - Janet Fearn

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