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.
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 <abhinav619(a)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 . Wikimedia India activities  may be less
due to no source of funds  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 . 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
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
The basis of your suspension notice has been shared here for the wider
Legal Structure : Affcom asked Wikimedia India to resolve and obtain its
necessary license in order to obtain funds. At present, as per
of India restrictions it is difficult to obtain foreign funding.
India informed the Affcom on roughly 13,000 Non-Government Organisations
(NGO)s  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
has an impact on 13,000 NGOs and Affcom finding flaws in WMIN Board
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
Would zero-budget activities, those self-financed not meet sufficiency ?
Please elaborate for us to stand better and to improve upon.
Would resolving Legal Structure and being able to receive WMF Grants be
a necessary criteria for WMIN to meet sufficiency or continued
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
(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
(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 , , ,. 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.
 Foreign Currency (Regulation) Act, 1960 compliance do not permit India
Chapter to receive money from its primary fiscal sponsor, Wikimedia
 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.
[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
Archiving the entire email conversation over a cloud document and
linking it to the relevant Meta page.
Documenting Internet Calls in an attempt to resolve communication gaps
and linking them to Meta page for greater transparency.
Based on Principal of Free Speech, allowing anybody to use the
discussion page for expression of their views.
Any Volunteer is free to translate the text into the language of their
Upload All PDF sent via Mails to Commons and link them to the Meta Page.
All relevant customs and procedures which exist for any Meta page to be
Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
New messages to: Wikimedia-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org
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