Hello,

Reading about these developments in India has been absolutely painful, and
a sad reminiscent of a number of past situations.

Most of all, the case with Wikimedia Portugal, when AffCom started imposing
restrictions and "mediation plans" without having any kind of official
hearing with the chapter; the whole environment of secrecy and power/fear
games; the prerogative of making all kinds of unsubstantiated affirmations,
presented as if they were god's truth; the notice of suspension for the
chapter, based on information which remains to be substantiated till today;
the feeling of hopelessness.

Then the old, cold case of Brazil, where back in 2010, like in India, the
WMF decided to experiment with local WMF representations, with very tragic
consequences, heavily disturbing the progress of the local Wikimedia
community, and hindering its progress for about a decade; the reckless
approval by AffCom, and subsequent WMF support of clone/conflicting local
affiliates with the one (s) already existing in the region; and the way it
was unilaterally "solved" by AffCom, dismantling a community which was
hanging around Wikimedia since 2008.

And then the recent case which happened to myself where an old and
exclusively Wikipedia-related case was somehow morphed and cooked in secret
inside WMF, deceitfully presenting it as affiliate related, and secretly
judged, with false accusations and sanctions issued without even informing
the target of what was happening.

One thing common to all those situations is the environment of secrecy and
obscurity cultivated by AffCom, completely at odds with the values of the
Wikimedia Movement - starting with the way AffCom deceitfully defines and
presents itself - "a Wikimedia community-run committee" [1], when it is all
but run by the Wikimedia community. It's not even chosen by the community,
to start with, but by the committee itself. But the main question probably
is: Why is AffCom cultivating all this environment of secrecy and obscurity
in what should be straightforward and clear proceedings? What may be
secretive at all, in the quest of a group of Wikimedians to become an
affiliate? Why those processes do not occur in daylight from their start
till the end - with the obvious exception of sensitive information
involving privacy, such as real names? And then - who is AffCom accountable
to? Who oversees AffCom? The BoT? Are they monitoring AffCom? Does the BoT
agrees with this way of acting?

All this cult of secrecy by AffCom and other powers-that-be inside WMF
creates a very unhealthy and toxic environment for everyone. I personally
appreciate and hold in high esteem a number of members of AffCom, possibly
the majority of them. And it has been very much mind-boggling watching the
way AffCom choses to act as a whole. I've suggested to the Strategy WG of
Roles & Responsibilities that AffCom should be wholly redefined, to make it
more transparent, community-connected and accountable. The way it is now, I
don't believe it is properly filling and complying with its role.

I really hope things improve, and our Wikimedian brothers at WMIN - who I
believe have made the right decision of bringing their case into the
clarity of daylight - will manage to revert the suspension and continue
working for a world of free knowledge accessible to everyone, despite the
difficulties they are passing through at this moment.

And it would be much more motivating for everyone if we could get out of
this kind of Age of Darkness at AffCom (and WMF in general).

[1] - https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Affiliations_Committee

Best,
Paulo


Abhinav srivastava <abhinav...@gmail.com> escreveu no dia terça, 9/07/2019
à(s) 08:10:

> Hi Lodewijk,
>
> I will try and simplify
>
> (a) *What is the exact and complete set of reasons that Affcom put the
> chapter on suspension?*
> This has been listed under six bullet points in my initial mail. I
> encourage you and everyone reading here to have a look at them. I have
> further shared a synopsis for the same again in part (c) along with WMIN
> responses.
>
> (b)* what additional complaints are part of the big picture ?*
> The trouble of having a Staff-based organisation (CIS-A2K) at national
> level where there is lesser transparency such that there MoU is not in
> public domain [1] and the trouble caused to India Chapter like attribution
> grabbing for WMIN's self-financed projects etc. [2]
>
> (c) w*hat is the response from WMIN.*
>  Our primary concern remains that Affcom on a good-faith could have asked
> for a clarification and if found they could have proceeded with the
> suspension. They took an official position without even hearing us once.
> There basis has been further described again in brief
>
> * Legal Structure : Affcom asked WMIN to resolve their necessary financial
> licenses. WMIN informed them that Government directives [3] have been
> restrictive in this regard, however, to keep the movement active,
> activities have been happening by members self-financing programs. Affcom
> has further cited problems with WMIN's leadership. WMIN regrets such
> statements, it is a nation-wide problem.
>
> * Open Governance : WMIN has repeatedly informed Affcom that a member need
> not be in physical presence to cast vote or raise voice during assembly.
> To do so as claimed by Affcom, WMIN would have to change it bylaws and also
> inform WMF as per Chapter Agreement. No evidence have been brought to
> notice for any violation.
>
> * Active Contributor Involvement : Affcom claims we do not have members and
> have made some allegations (check initial mail for details) but haven't
> provided any evidence. WMIN is always open to sharing its member's data
> base with them after discussing privacy.
>
> * Capacity : Affcom claims that WMIN has not been doing activities and
> Chapter has repeatedly informed that WMIN has been hosting zero-budget,
> self-financed activities. All reports are available [4]. Affcom has also
> cited concerns over delay in report submission and WMIN has informed about
> problems with government regulations. Detailed response in initial mail.
>
> * Organizational Best Practices : Affcom claims that WMIN has not been
> abiding to Best Practices, however they haven't informed the respective
> areas. WMIN has shared the document with them, however they say late
> submission hence proceeding with de-recognition.
>
> * Action Plan : Based on all five points, WMIN has been asked to prepare an
> action plan. WMIN continues to contest all the five basis and asked Affcom
> to review Organizational Best Practices to understand the action-items.
> Affcom claims late hence proceeding with de-recognition.
>
> Also responding to few other statements categorically from your mail
>
> * *It sounds more like they heard your responses *
> As stated in my initial mail, WMIN has been providing justifications in
> writing over mail however Affcom does not address them and invites for a
> Call and shares expectation gap response over Cloud Document. Hence, during
> Call,clarifications are again provided for they being not justified (eg -
> Affcom finding WMIN's leadership flaws when 13,000 institutes struggle
> with foreign funding) however nothing is taken into consideration.
>
> *  *it is their job to make the best decision both for the best decision
> both for the movement as a whole and the Wikimedia movement in India.*
> Absolutely, it is for the very reason I ask them to make this public. If
> Affcom is more transparent about its investigation and decision making,
> community can provide valuable inputs and no reason to question them.
>
> * *I was unable to find the resolution that explains this decision*
> WMIN has been repeatedly asking Affcom to put everything in public domain
> including the resolution. Please find Annexure [A] in my initial mail.
>
> [1]
>
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2013-November/010627.html
> [2] 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.
> [3] Foreign Currency (Regulation) Act, 1960 compliance do not permit India
> Chapter to receive money from its primary fiscal sponsor, Wikimedia
> Foundation.
> [4]
>
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_chapters/Reports/Wikimedia_India#Wikimedia_India
>
> On Tue, 9 Jul 2019 at 08:52, effe iets anders <effeietsand...@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> > Thanks Abhinav for your email. I'm having a hard time splitting the email
> > out in a) what is the exact and complete set of reasons that Affcom put
> the
> > chapter on suspension. b) what additional complaints are part of the big
> > picture. c) what is the response from WMIN.
> >
> > I realize it is really hard for you to separate these components, because
> > you have been living this discusion for the past 8 months (at least), if
> I
> > read this correctly.
> >
> > You mention that AffCom has not heard your objections, but from the rest
> of
> > your email, it sounds more like they heard your responses (you mention
> both
> > written and oral communication), but they hold a different opinion on the
> > value of those objections. That may be because of a different set of
> > expectations. I know these discussions are always painful for everyone,
> and
> > I'm confident that AffCom does not enjoy suspending chapters. While this
> is
> > no legal procedure, it is their job to make the best decision both for
> the
> > movement as a whole and the Wikimedia movement in India.
> >
> > Anyhow, I was unable to find the resolution that explains this decision,
> so
> > it's hard to really understand it. I do hope that you and affcom will be
> > able to work towards a solution together - probably by addressing the
> > underlying concerns.
> >
> > Best,
> > Lodewijk
> >
> > On Mon, Jul 8, 2019 at 4:19 PM ravinder jadeja <tnkp...@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> >
> > > It is such a long message and what I understand a very painful one for
> > the
> > > writer. Asking Affcom to come in public with data is a right demand
> > > everyone can read then.
> > >
> > > I know FCRA is very tough thing today and I feel sorry reading that
> point
> > >
> > > What is this problem with CIS I am new and would like to know.
> > >
> > > On Tue, 9 Jul 2019 at 00:04, Subhashish Panigrahi <
> psubhash...@gmail.com
> > >
> > > wrote:
> > >
> > >> Forwarding esp. for those Indian Wikimedians who are on the
> Wikimedia-l
> > >> list
> > >>
> > >> Subha
> > >>
> > >> ---------- Forwarded message ---------
> > >> From: Abhinav srivastava <abhinav...@gmail.com>
> > >> Date: Sun, Jul 7, 2019 at 2:20 PM
> > >> Subject: [Wikimedia-l] Open Letter to Affiliations Committee :
> Wikimedia
> > >> India's Demand For A Fair And Transparent Hearing
> > >> To: Wikimedia Mailing List <wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org>
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> 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.
> > >> _______________________________________________
> > >> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > >> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines and
> > >> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia-l
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> > >> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l
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