[FSUG-Bangalore] [Fsf-friends] Statement of FSF India board on recent incidents

Nagarjuna G. nagarjun at gnowledge.org
Sat Nov 29 23:30:29 IST 2008

On Sat, Nov 29, 2008 at 1:55 PM, Vikram Vincent <vincentvikram at gmail.com> wrote:
> Greetings,
> From http://www.gnu.org.in/board-statement-on-recent-issues
> <quote>
> 9. Are the members of the Director Board of FSF India elected?
> <snip> As mentioned in the answer to an earlier question, FSF India is not a
> mass movement and is not a democratic organisation. The purpose of FSF
> India, as of FSF, is to provide guidance to the Free Software movement. This
> purpose could be easily defeated if it is made into an elected body.
> </quote>
> India is considered one of the biggest democracies in the world and the Free
> Software Movement is for the democratisation of technology and knowledge.
> However, the namesake of FSF in India ie., FSF-India, whose role is to lead
> the Free Software Movement has clearly defined itself as undemocratic.
> Let us take things objectively to analyse, debate and come to some sort of
> an understanding.
> Democracy, transparency and openness are considered the pillars of the free
> software movement. We talk about free(or open) standards, free knowledge,
> etc.. and then we hear "Democracy? That is only for theory."
> How can one ensure democratisation of knowledge if one is undemocratic?

I don't think we disagree with you on the need for democracy, or

For administering the country we need democracy.  For administering
any social group, small or big we need democracy.  FSF India does not
administer any group.  We protect and promote software freedom.

Why select and not elect?   If it is not a
represented body, how can it represent on behalf of the free software

Let us take the election issue first: For an election to happen we
   need an electoral college.  What constitutes an electoral college
   is difficult to determine in our case, at least in the current
   state of FSF India.  Should we take all the members of the mailing
   list as those who can elect?  Should we take all the people who
   pays the fellowship dues as those who can elect?  Should we take
   all those who come for the general body meeting as those who can

   Or should we take all the members of the board of directors as the
   electoral college?  Or do you want elections for who should be in
   the board of directors?

   Currently, what we are doing is as follows: The person who takes
   the key role depends on a person's long term commitment to the
   manifesto of FS.  How will we come to know who will take the key
   role?  We will come to know of such people from their work in the
   community.  If they are active, they will be speaking in events,
   they will be writing, taking FS agenda seriously as a part of their
   life, doing several activities that spreads awareness of free
   software, contributes to free software development etc. When we
   know the person, FSFI will write to the person and send them an
   invitation to join as a working group member.  So far this is what
   we are doing.

   The current electoral college of FSFI is only five members. That
   does not mean that there are only five people in such a big
   country.  There are many activists who fit to be on the board.
   Many of them whom we invited to be on the board did not oblige, for
   they had thier own excuses and other committments.  Some of them
   resigned after being in the board for some time due to practical
   reasons, and some due to ideological reasons.  Some of them were
   asked to resign when the board came to know that they are not
   working in the interest of free software.

   So, with only five members in the board, we almost always had
   consensus. None of the board members ever expressed any
   discent. Another issue is the designations that Arun and myself
   have. These are requirements of any legal entity. Within the board,
   as well as within the community we respect p2p culture. These
   labels are for those who are outside the free software community.
   Within the community, all of us are peers working in the FSM.

   So, the method followed is select from the community and then elect
   some of them for key roles. This is what the constitution of FSFI
   permits now: Selection followed by election.  Any change of this
   requires an amendment.

   Do you think we need any amendment here? Or do you know about some
   people who you think should be on board/working group?

Few other points we need to keep in mind:

1. The objective of FSFI is not to create a power or an empire or a
     body that wishes to rule the society. This way this organization
     is not like a political party. We do not want to do this even
     among the restricted group of free software developers.

2. Since we do not enjoy or want to enjoy power, or since we do not
   govern any one, we do not have to be elected, but selected.  This
   does not have any implications to general claims about how society
   should be.

3. Whenever we deal with matters like GPLv3 or the next version of it,
   we may take the initiative or respond to the community demand and
   take the feedback, since it effects every one. You may recall that
   FSF did that recently.  This is an example to show when should we
   involve everyone.

4. This kind of organization has responsibility without enjoying any
   power. The responsibility is to protect software freedom.

Now, the other question is: Can FSFI claim as a representative of free
software community in India?

It depends on what the community feels. If anyone else wants to
represent free software community, we do not come in their way. We are
trying our best to protect software freedom in the country, and we
will continue to do so.

We are not absolving the responsibility to represent the community.
At the same time we do not want to do it alone. We will support your
activities if they are about software freedom.  We have joined hand
with several other organizations when we faught against software
patents, open standards, school ICT education, policy issues etc.

Regarding transparency: I admit we need to be more transparent.  We
are not deliberately suppressing any matter.  We did not report
several events on the website or in the mailing list, for no other
intention but for want of time.  All of us are working as volunteers,
and the members of the board are not eligible to take any revenue from
FSF India. But you will see lot of improvement in future.

Please donate your time.  If you do not have time, donate money so
that we can buy someone else's time.  Should all the people in the
working group take up tasks by managing them by using a project
management application?  So that the community knows who is doing
what?  Which tasks are completed, what tasks are remaining etc.

We are now a week or so away from the FSFS.in conference, and soon you
have several big events in Karnataka, and other parts of India. let us
try to make all these events successful and create as much awareness
as possible.


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