Unsolicited Suggestion for RSS uniform

There have been reports that the RSS is considering a change in its dress code. Such a contemplation typically happens internally, and it is unlikely that external inputs are sought or considered. Updates about the decision to change and the progress towards the decision are usually not communicated to the media or to the public. However, many who are sympathetic or supportive of the organization would volunteer to provide suggestions unsolicited. Here is one such suggestion from a traditional perspective.

RSS leadership in traditional dress in 1939

What are the requirements for the uniform of a cultural organization such as RSS?
1.   The uniform should reflect the Hindu culture. At least, it should have the elements, look and feel, and the spirit of Indian ethos.
2.  The uniform should be helpful in fostering unity, discipline, and invoke a sense of cultural nationalism.
3.  It should be simple, flexible, cost effective, and widely available.

Strictly speaking, the present Khaki shorts and full-sleeved white shirt may not have some of the above features. Similar is the case of the shoes and the belt. While some of them may not have an Indian origin, components of the uniform such as the Sangh cap are truly Indian. After decades of use, however, all components of the uniform have become elements of Brand Hindutva. The uniform does not generate an alien feeling, but is seen as very much Indian.
However, if a decision is taken to change the uniform, then it is necessary to ensure that the new uniform meets more of the requirements listed above.

Firstly, it should be noted that the very concept of a uniform inevitably dismisses diversity. The Indian ethos includes a multitude of attires and dress codes – all in harmony with diverse lifestyles, and some even in tune with ancient values. One uniform for all means some people having to give up their own clothing style and adopt a different one. But trying to accommodate diversity results in the dilution of the uniform and the discipline of RSS could become a casualty. The point here is not take the argument to an extreme, but to buttress a subtle point – related uniquely to the Sangh.

There is no doubt that traditional attire in an Indian’s daily (and especially professional) life is a thing of the distant past. At first glance, this seems to be a pan-cultural and ubiquitous scenario that can be owed to westernization. The Arab world and even some non-Muslim countries of Asia and Europe, however, seem to tell a different story. The prevalence of Islamic traditional attire is only increasing among Muslims in both their private and public lives. This observation is not for comparison or competition, but to communicate that a retention of tradition is possible in the 21st century.

It is possible to argue that there is no need to accommodate traditional substitutes in the RSS uniform, as after a decade or so, whatever is chosen would carry the Brand Hindutva again. It may be true, but such an argument is also a reflection of the prevalent public discourse and may not stand the test of time.

Any uniform – existing or new, brings with it possibilities of reinforcing westernization or destroying diversity. RSS, whose purpose statement includes addressing these two problems, therefore needs to take precautions. The first precaution to be taken is to include an escape mechanism from these two traps of deviation from Indian ethos and not accommodating diversity.

Is it possible? Is it required?
Those who are familiar with the concept of a uniform and impressed by its advantages may find it difficult to accommodate an option of not wearing one – perhaps even term it as a route towards indiscipline and one that sows the seeds of division. But those who have understood the strength of the Hindu society vouch for the genuine diversity that is inherent in our society. The concept of diversity is matured in its fullest form in India and is a strong basis for true freedom and true equality that is taught by Hinduism. A lifestyle that integrates daily conduct and the conceptual framework is the corner stone of Hindutva. Prescribed good conduct is person, context, time, and space dependent, among other things. It pervades everything – attire included. That means, survival (or revival) of Hinduism is dependent on the ability of an individual to follow and align with the prescribed good conduct. A uniform, in its conventional sense, excludes those who are willing to follow, or unknowingly following the prescribed conduct.

While it may be true that such people are in minuscule numbers, and such a population may not be following the prescribed conduct in a consistent way, such excuses for not incorporating traditional substitutes in the uniform is indicative of an approach that is not elegant.

The crux of the suggestion – working of a proposed uniform
The uniform can be decided in the same way the old uniform was. Khaki can be replaced by green, shorts by pants, shirts by t-shirts, etc. But an option that accommodates Indian diversity should be provided along with the new uniform. An optional list of attires such as dhoti, different headgear, and traditional substitutes of shirts may be listed – not as an exhaustive, but as a enlargeable list. Guidelines can be provided to participants as to who should be taking the option of alternative attires. Those who wear alternate attires can participate in programs as separate units, sit in a group, and form one column of a route march. All scenarios are to be listed and details of participation of traditional substitutes should be worked out.

This would be a new, superior and elegant model for ensuring discipline and unity without comprising on diversity and without imposing uniformity. The new model would be a testimony to the RSS commitment to bring a much needed Hindu perspective in Indian public affairs.

Land Provision for Development Projects

Infrastructure development, Industrialization, and developmental activities require agriculture land to be converted for non-agricultural purposes. Land acquisition bills have been introduced in many states and by the central government that provide procedures for accessing land for developmental purposes.

Broadly, the land requirements for non-agricultural purposes have been identified under three categories. The first category of land is required for public infrastructure such as roads, and other common public utilities. The second category includes land required for projects under public-private partnership and the third category includes land required for private projects.

Presently, the land acquisition is effected by a government notification acquiring the agricultural land required for a project. There are some differences in the way the land from an agriculturist is acquired for three different categories, but the summary is that the owner of the land is divested with the ownership when the notification is issued in return to a compensation.

There are some social consequences from the process of land acquisition provided by the existing laws. Land ownership is changed when a land is acquired for a development project. Farmers, many of them dependent on agriculture and rooted in and around their lands for hundreds of years would be disconnected from their native places and new set of people would move into the area. Both the new and old people struggle to adjust to the new realities. This is being viewed as an emotional issue – but in the globalized, industrial world order, this pattern also has a security and sustainability angle.

From the economic sense, the land price is steadily increasing and the compensation for the acquired land will prove to be much less comapared to a future market price. The difference is typically very high over a short period of few years and the original owner will perceive a notional loss of value for his land.

To address the social consequences, the following proposal is presented.

1. A land requirement notice is to be issued by the government with details of the project, preferred region for establishing the project, land requirement details.

2. A land co-operative society is to be established for managing the land required for the project

3. Farmers are given option of joining the land co-operative society. Land swapping options are facilitated by the government for those who would like to retain land / or participate in the project with suitable one time compensation. Land would be converted to land certificates in the name of the farmers for easy handling of the claims.

4. The land co-operative society will negotiate with the project owners and arrive at a set of terms and conditions including financial aspects. The financial aspects would be linked with the market value of the land in that region.

5. Land owners will continue to be the owners of their land – they are free to sell, divide, and acquire other portions of the land as before without any constraints.

6. The only constraint on the land owned by the land co-operative society would be to safeguard the venture of the project as planned in the project proposal. When the project ends or closed, an alternative venture would replace and the arrangement would continue. In case of absence of an alternate arrangement, the land should be prepared for the agricultural purposes. The land co-operative society would take up collective farming activities.

7. If that is not possible, the government would provide alternate land certificates to the owners of the land so that their revenue stream continues.

8. If the owner does not prefer alternative land certificates, the government would notify exclusion of the farmer from the co-operative society and would return the land to the owner.