I do not have all the answers and mostly I want more information myself!

I am sympathetic to Wikimedia India's situation. Personally, I agree with
Abhinav about all these things. I will not make judgements about right and
wrong or correct and incorrect, but for anyone who is just joining the
Wikimedia Movement conversation about India, here are what I identify as
the recurring conflicts between the WMF and the wiki India community since

spending money in India without community participation
The Wikimedia Foundation makes large financial investments in India without
being open about it and without getting Wikimedia community buy-in. The
biggest projects rely on paid staff who will not collaborate with any
existing Wikimedia community members.

asking the India community to avoid public conversation
The Wikimedia Foundation continually requests closed conversation about any
conflict or controversy in India. The WMF argument is that discretion helps
resolve the issue. The downside is that lack of documentation keeps the
various Indian Wiki people from becoming aware that the problems repeat
themselves. A very discouraging situation is when multiple communities in
India all have the same problem, and the WMF has asked them all to be quiet
about it, telling them each that they were the only ones having this
problem. If they come to know they each experienced the same problem with
the same request for silence, then they are all discouraged.

cultural blunders
The Wikimedia Foundation makes decisions without the participation of the
local community and therefore makes blunders when trying to do things for
the local community. In a typical blunder, the WMF will spend lots of money
doing something which makes sense in the Western world but which makes no
sense in India. The local community gets shocked by the waste of money and
simultaneously wonders about other WMF investment in India.

If I made one request for intervention, it would be for the WMF to report
all financial and labor investment in India for the past 10 years and going
forward annually. If the money was public then I think all the other
challenges would come into open conversation as well. Here for example is a
video from 10 years ago where Jimbo mentions the Wikimedia Foundation
office in India.
The WMF has a unique relationship with India and it would be helpful that
if there is to be investment then the money should be in the open.
Strangely - at the same time as the WMF is shutting down Wikimedia India,
it is also making a major push to do fundraising in India. This came out
just a few days ago.

What Abhinav is talking about in his letter is the Wikimedia Affiliations
Committee suspending recognition of Wikimedia India in September. There are
a lot of good people in the Wikimedia India chapter who report being
disturbed by the WMF's treatment of them. I do not blame the WMF exactly,
but no one can go into a foreign culture and expect it to adapt. The part
about this that bothers me the most is the years of precedent of only
talking about India-related challenges in secret. AffCom and the WMF are
silent about problems. See the talk pages - there is nothing there -

Losing a chapter is a big deal! Where is the discussion about this?

What is the Wikimedia community supposed to think, and how are we supposed
to respond, if we hear that the Wikimedia chapter in India is closing but
there are no on-wiki records of problems and no discussion about this?
Wikimedia India is a community of our colleagues, how do we help? Of course
I do not want the chapter to get a punishment especially without public

If anyone wants to get involved, check out Wikimedia India's reports and
comment about them on the main Wikimedia India talk page.
If they look to be in order then say so.
Anything to start a conversation helps.


On Sun, Jul 7, 2019 at 4:50 AM Abhinav srivastava <abhinav...@gmail.com>

> Dear Friends From Affcom,
> I am posting an open public request for your notice of Suspension moved at
> Wikimedia India (WMIN) which we continue to contest and to our ignored
> demand of having a public hearing as shared with you all over mail and
> shared again here under Annexure [A]. You have taken an official position
> on suspension without even hearing us even once, unexplained accusations
> have been provided and we continue to believe Affcom has been
> insufficiently investigating facts before making judgements. We repeatedly
> over and over again provided justifications over Mail but you never took
> them to your notice and only over calls you heard us, provided your
> rationale for expectation gaps but never took our oral commentary which
> refutes your claims,in any action, anywhere. Now you say WMIN won’t remain
> a Chapter after 14th September and be transformed into a User Group.
> Republic of India happens to be one of the only few countries where besides
> volunteer driven Chapter and User Groups has a full-time staff based WMF’s
> Allied Organisation CIS-A2K [1]. Wikimedia India activities [2] may be less
> due to no source of funds [3] however, Community Members from India put
> their efforts, strive hard to take the movement ahead.  Whether it be the
> previous financial year or the present, no Wikimedia Foundation Grants like
> Rapid Grant, Project Grant etc have been applied by Wikimedia India members
> to support any Chapter activity. They remain self-financed. We received
> your notice last year when Wikimedia India was contesting a dispute with
> CIS-A2K over attribution grabbing for our self-financed projects and
> ignoring Chapter at important National level initiaves [4]. While working
> with virtually no source of funds and struggles with WMF’s Allied
> Organisation, your notice of suspension was the least bad we could have
> had.
> We continue to contest your suspension notice. It was Suo Moto (on its own)
> decision making and as found and re-stated above and below in detail, there
> were gaps and misunderstanding in your basis. We also continue to contest
> there has been a Rush-to-decision making. No written responses via Mail to
> Chapter’s clarification are being provided and invitation for calls are
> initiated where brief responses are shared on a Cloud Document. It has been
> subsequently found by both parties on there being gaps in communication.
> However, even after clarity during call, Affcom has not taken any action
> over them.
> The basis of your suspension notice has been shared here for the wider
> audience.
>    1.
>    Legal Structure : Affcom asked Wikimedia India to resolve and obtain its
>    necessary license in order to obtain funds. At present, as per
> Government
>    of India restrictions it is difficult to obtain foreign funding.
> Wikimedia
>    India informed the Affcom on roughly 13,000 Non-Government Organisations
>    (NGO)s [5] are struggling with a similar crisis to which Affcom
>    responded, “reconsider applying for a User Group.” and “no evidence that
>    the current organization’s leadership will be able to drive this problem
>    toward resolution”. Chapter efforts and commitment in resolving the said
>    crisis cannot be dusted in few words. A Government restrictive policy
> which
>    has an impact on 13,000 NGOs and Affcom finding flaws in WMIN Board
> Members
>    capability. WMIN would leave it for public interpretation.
> Why not a capability audit for hosting zero-budget activities? While most
> of the time are being spent on resolving the said crisis, WMIN continues to
> undertake activities as listed. Taking the Open Knowledge Movement forward
> remains a commitment for the Chapter irrespective of whatsoever political
> climate may remain. Affcom was asked two questions respectively in this
> regard however no response has been attained. The questions are
>    1.
>    Would zero-budget activities, those self-financed not meet sufficiency ?
>    Please elaborate for us to stand better and to improve upon.
>    2.
>    Would resolving Legal Structure and being able to receive WMF Grants be
>    a necessary criteria for WMIN to meet sufficiency or continued
> activities
>    not meet the fulfilment criteria?
> (2) Open Governance : Affcom informed Chapter that a member needs to be in
> physical presence at the Chapter Assembly to cast vote and raise voice and
> asked The Chapter to change its bylaws. This information is anything but
> false. This was communicated during the Call but Affcom did not bring
> anything in action. Also, as per the Chapter Agreement between WMF and
> WMIN, a copy of bylaws was provided in English Language to WMF. The bylaws
> were approved by the then Chapter’s Council. No evidence has been brought
> to notice on WMIN violating the Clause 7.2 of the Chapter’s Agreement,
> “The Wikimedia Chapter shall be required to advise the Foundation of any
> planned or actual change in the bylaws or status of the Chapter which might
> affect the Foundation or the continued existence or effectiveness of this
> Agreement.”
> (3) Active Contributor Involvement :The November 10 email carried the
> statement, “The chapter lacks broad and diverse membership, community
> representation, as well as buy-in and involvement “ and “Membership seems
> to be sourced through university leadership rather than through open
> community participation and representation.”  Chapter till date received no
> evidence or logic construction on how the said argument was reached. Later
> during the call, Affcom did acknowledge that there has been a communication
> gap. Chapter further floated the idea of sharing the Member’s data base
> after discussing privacy policy over them.
> (4) Capacity : WMIN was able to submit its annual reports on 21st December,
> 2018 (3.5 months late) due to a notice by Income-Tax department which
> caused delay in preparing our Financial reports. Although we do not have
> any annual grants or use any money to support any activity, as per
> Chapter’s agreement, affiliate is required to submit Financial Results.
> Meanwhile, WMIN reported its activities on every quarterly basis and shared
> it with the wider Indian community via India Mailing List and also other
> channels [6], [7], [8],[9]. Annual activity report is a compilation from
> the quarterly reports.
> Affcom claimed via Cloud document that no high level response submitted and
> repeated delay is not accepted. WMIN informed Affcom that previous delay
> needs to be looked at independently from earlier financial period and
> suspension notice (WMIN then had a grant), but we received no response.
> (5) Organizational Best Practices : Affcom asked us to ‘Resolve’ issues
> relating to Organizational Best Practices, however, no information had been
> received on respective deliverables not been met. The November 10, email
> carried the statement, “There are concerns about whether” referring that
> Affcom was also not sure themselves. WMIN shared the best practices after
> placing it in front of the community on member’s mailing list for more than
> 15 days. To this Affcom responded that you are late with your submission
> hence we are terminating your contract. They never shared an evidence and
> when WMIN took its time placed it in-front of the community and then
> submitted, they said delayed and instead of sending their response in
> writing over mail they again invited us for a call. We continue to insist
> on providing a written response via Mail but no action.
> (6) Action Plan : Affcom asked us to submit an Action Plan and we kept
> asking what deliverable are needed. We cannot commit on resolving
> Government restrictions within a said timeline as more than 13,000 NGOs
> struggle with the similar crisis. We emphasised again and again we have
> been running zero-budget activities and working for the movement. We asked
> them to review Organizational Best Practices, based on gaps we could have
> taken things into consideration. They rather said, you have missed the
> deadline, so WMIN has to be closed now.
> To sum up, Affcom friends, you made up your own decision, you made up you
> own hearing and you made up your own decision. It was a monologue masked in
> the name of a dialogue.
> I encourage you all to be in our boots someday, hosting activities on
> zero-budget, fighting with the Government bureaucracy to attain some
> funding as a help, the challenge of having a staff-based organisation in
> parallel, struggle with self-financing activities and most importantly
> working with Affcom to save yourself from their de-recognition threats.
> If you believe you are correct, please abide to the request made under
> Annexure [A] and put everything in public domain. Let community read for
> themselves and decide. If Affcom is more transparent about its
> investigation and actions then community would be able to better understand
> the work and provide an opinion.
> Regards,
> Abhinav
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> [1] https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/CIS-A2K
> [2]
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2019-April/013994.html
> \
> [3] Foreign Currency (Regulation) Act, 1960 compliance do not permit India
> Chapter to receive money from its primary fiscal sponsor, Wikimedia
> Foundation.
> [4] Board of Directors at CIS, acknowledged in March, 2019 for a compliant
> made in August, 2018 for CIS-A2K Staff not doing their duty to the order.
> [5]
> https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/06/07/democracies-need-a-little-help-from-their-friends/
> [6]
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2017-July/013030.html
> [7]
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2017-October/013089.html
> [8]
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2018-January/013188.html
> [9]
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2018-April/013295.html
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Annexure
> [A] Reallocating the Affcom - WMIN Communication To Meta : No
> communications over email, video call, social media, instant messaging, or
> anywhere but wiki! While this would not just be aligned with the editing
> spirit, it would promote greater transparency and also helpful for us to
> communicate the message to our community members. While, we understand
> Affcom had been advocating the same, however, taking care of privacy
> concerns, do let us.  Once we hear from Affcom on having no privacy
> concerns, we may reallocate the discussions.
> If there a consent to this, would request a green light also for
>    1.
>    Archiving the entire email conversation over a cloud document and
>    linking it to the relevant Meta page.
>    2.
>    Documenting Internet Calls in an attempt to resolve communication gaps
>    and linking them to Meta page for greater transparency.
>    3.
>    Based on Principal of Free Speech, allowing anybody to use the
>    discussion page for expression of their views.
>    4.
>    Any Volunteer is free to translate the text into the language of their
>    choice.
>    5.
>    Upload All PDF sent via Mails to Commons and link them to the Meta Page.
>    6.
>    All relevant customs and procedures which exist for any Meta page to be
>    in action.
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Lane Rasberry
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