The Bulli Bai case, in which pictures of politically articulate Muslim women activists, journalists and other professionals were put up on Github for a mock 'auction', has brought to light the increasing influence of far-right social media groups known as 'Trads'.
According to the Delhi Police, two of the accused in its custody, Aumkareshwar Thakur and Niraj Bishnoi, were both part of 'Trad' groups online.
So who are Trads? What is their relationship with others in the Hindu Right? What backgrounds do they come from?
The Quint posed some of these questions to journalist Alishan Jafri who has been tracking and writing on Trads extensively besides his reportage on communal hate and violence.
Who are Trads? How are they different from other Hindutva supporters, for instance those who adhere to the RSS' line of thinking?
Trads stands for Traditionalists. It's an online alt-right cultural movement which takes direct inspiration from the Neo-Nazis and Western alt-right movements. The 8chan and 4chan is now taken very seriously after multiple acts of racist, homophobic and xenophobic terrorisms were linked to alt-right radicalisation.
It's largely an organic movement through which thousands of young people make friends online because of their extremist far-right views and genocidal ‘humour’. It's a movement driven by only hate for Muslims, Dalits, Sikhs, and other minorities.
The Trads only love those who can hate unapologetically. They even hate those BJP followers who take refuge in hateful dog whistles. Trads consider them to be hypocritical.
Here, hate is ‘humour’ and it includes incitement to mass rapes and genocide. Those who don't laugh have a problem according to the Indian chanosphere (alt-right universe).
Moreover, it's so extremist that some Trads even view the BJP and the RSS to be anti-Hindu because “apparently” the BJP is not anti-Muslim or anti-Dalit enough.
Many of them believe that the Chaturvarna system should be strictly enforced and Manusmriti must replace the Constitution of India. They even dislike Prime Minister Modi and consider him to be unfit to be the PM. They mock his caste and his supposed inability to deal with the minorities with an iron hand, especially post-Bengal violence.
In the Trad world, glorification of anti-Dalit violence is quite rampant.
Some BJP IT cell members, on the condition of anonymity, had shared information about Trads attacking Hindu women and morphing their pictures and later blaming it on Muslims. That has been proved with the arrest of the Trad group leader by Delhi police.
Have you observed any key demographic patterns among Trads in terms of age group, educational background, caste, location, etc?
Trads seem to mostly be young and geeky upper-caste kids. However, they're everywhere although they're not as massive an ecosystem as regular BJP supporters. This also points towards the closet radicalisation of the society. You may find someone to be ok with certain political differences but you never know if they want you to be murdered or not.
Not everybody is going to be an extremist in saffron robes who will openly incite genocide in their Dharam Sansads or rallies, some will keep it to themselves and say it online behind the veil of anonymity. They're more dangerous.
How do other members of the Hindu Right view Trads?
They hate Trads. All the culprits in the Sulli Deals or Bulli Bai had trolled regular BJP supporters and morphed their photos, trolling them for their caste or supposed liberal views. Many right-wing supporters had demanded action against Trads and even shared information with journalists which helped us in writing our stories about this ecosystem. On the other hand, there are some who are trying to shield these Trad networks and sort out the issues internally.
While we often tend to reduce communal hate against minorities as a trickle down movement, it's now time to understand that it's actually a bottom up movement as well. Now the mobs guide the state's communalism.
They're somewhat autonomous. It's impossible to keep this communal frenzy and poison in control and administer clinically controlled doses regularly.
Society will eventually find independent sources for more brazen hate. India's Liberals also don't know about it. It's some sort of a shocking revelation for them. Communal and radicalised youth taking to online extremism should have been taken quite seriously years ago.
They can easily speak about how people from France were radicalised online and attracted to the ISIS but they won't know that a man from Bihar can also leave his studies and come to Ghaziabad or Meerut to fight against “Jihad” or a teenager can leave aside everything and create lists of hundreds of women to viciously attack them for their identity.
The alt-right movement is spontaneous and organic but they think it's manufactured by the BJP.
While I may agree that the BJP's rule has created a conducive environment for this movement to grow, I don't think that the BJP can possibly control a criminal movement in which all the members hate the RSS and the BJP itself for all the wrong reasons.
Do we have any details on how they push their ideology in the offline world?
It's an alt-right movement. Like all alt-right movements, it has largely stayed online unlike the organised instances of violence and lynchings backed by right-wing militant outfits. That does not mean that this is any less dangerous. In fact, there are several trad groups which discuss about violence, procurement of arms, and rape as revenge.
Be it the attack on the US Capitol, the New Zealand terror attack by Brendon Tarrant or the El Paso shooting, the alt-right movement had a key role in all these instances.
The Indian alt-right is completely and unapologetically inspired by Nazis. It wants to kill all Muslims in gas chambers. It promotes suicide attacks and glorifies men who were involved in mass violence against Muslims and Dalits. The possibility of a lone-wolf wreaking havoc in the real world cannot be ignored.