The discussions went on for hours but in the end, the 90-year-old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) decided to “move with the times”, replacing the trademark baggy khaki shorts with brown trousers to woo younger members.
General secretary of the RSS, Bhaiyyaji Joshi, announced on Sunday that after a protracted will-they- won’t-they dilemma, the Pratinidhi Sabha — the highest RSS decision making body — voted for brown to replace the khaki-shorts for drill and for other ceremonial purposes.
Speaking in Rajasthan’s Nagaur, Joshi said there was no particular reason for picking brown but the RSS changed the uniform as it was not “a rigid” organisation and believed in moving with the times.
“Our identity is not because of just khaki shorts but we have other elements as well and when we will start using new colour people will get used to it,” he told reporters.
The desire to revamp the uniform is motivated by the Sangh’s concerted efforts to woo the younger generation; from activities at Shakhas to the use of technology, the RSS is positioning itself as a contemporary organisation with a traditional outlook. A change in uniform–the options were navy blue, blue or grey trousers—is in line with this attempt.
The decision to change the ‘Ganavesh’ (uniform) however was fraught; a big chunk of swayamsevaks wanted to continue with Khaki shorts- white shirt combination.
In 2010, Joshi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had given into overwhelming demand to retain Khaki after a similar debate, despite reportedly being in favour of a new dress code.
“Some swayamsevaks were not too happy with the decision to change the uniform as they felt that it was now identified with the Sangh, others had proposed a changed to attract the youth,” said a functionary.
A discussion was mooted again at a Sangh meeting in Ranchi last year, where options for a new uniform were discussed and paraded before RSS members.
But the process of replacing the old with the new will take time. According to Sangh functionaries, there are as over 56,000 shakhas where swayamsevakas come for meetings and drill, and providing new uniforms will be a long-drawn process.
Since its foundation in 1925, the swayamsevak’s then all-khaki attire has changed several times.
In 1940, the colour of the shirt was changed from khaki to white. In 1973, leather shoes replaced long boots.
The last change made to the RSS uniform was in 2010, when the canvas belt replaced the leather one, following suggestions from Jain community leaders to drop leather as it symbolises cruelty to animals.