One of the greatest joys Twitter has to offer is the opportunity to watch random strangers be completely vicious to one another without provocation. Recently, I elaborated on the divisions within the Indian Rightwing and the great churn it finds itself in the middle of. As it so happens, people of these various groups constantly have arguments with one another which tend to be vicious at times. Certain words are thrown at each other during these volatile arguments, words that have become an integral part of the Indian non-Left lexicon. Two of them are ‘Trad’ and ‘Rayta’.
The popularity of these words, among many other things, is a contribution of the Reactionary Right to the non-left narrative on social media.
These words were invented sometime in 2016-17 by people on social media to be used as self-identifiers as well as insults for other people. However, with the passage of time, as they got more popular the meaning of these terms became muddled and it wasn’t entirely clear what any of this meant. Therefore, of late, it has become a necessity to explain these terms for the lay folk. Interestingly enough, most people do not care to be identified with such labels. It is other people who categorize an individual into these groups.
To put it succinctly, ‘Trad’ is short for Traditionalist and ‘Rayta’ is a pejorative for people who belong to the ‘Raytawing’. The latter, in turn, is a pejorative for the Vikas Right. ‘Raytawing’ is inspired by the popular Hindi phrase ‘Rayta failana’ which roughly translates to making a mess of things. As readers would be aware, ‘Rayta failana’ is something that Delhi CM Kejriwal is often accused of.
As I had mentioned in a previous article, the Vikas Right is the liberal section of the non-left that comprises of the Liberal Right and the Economic Right. Members of the Vikas Right believe in ‘true secularism’, ‘true liberalism’, ‘true feminism’ and other such ‘true’ versions of western ideologies. Staunch support for absolute freedom of expression is also advocated.
Their main grouse with the Left is that the Indian Left has perverted the meaning of such ideologies. The opposition to the Left from the Vikas Right comes from the ideological position that the Left has failed to adhere to the ideologies they claim to advocate. Thus, the Vikas Right’s criticism of the Left can be reduced to: “We are the real liberals. You are the real fascists.”
The Reactionary Right, on the other hand, is a huge umbrella of ideologies. There are the Blackpillers, people who consider secular democracy to be the root of all problems, the social conservatives, the Hindu Rashtra advocates, then there are the ‘Trads’ and people of numerous other bents. The Vikas Right lumps all these disparate groups, who are often in conflict with each other, into one category: Trads.
Extremely few people on the Reactionary Right identify themselves as ‘Trad’. Also, there is a certain degree of overlap between the groups. The social conservatives support a tradition-based society and are averse towards the idea of reforming Hindu society into a liberal one. In that, they have the support of the anti-secular Democracy camp. The Blackpillers consider the transformation of Hindu society into a liberal one not only as inevitable but something that has already come to pass. Thus, while these three groups agree that Hindu society should not transform into a liberal one, two of them do not think it has come to pass while the third believes Hindu society is doomed to perish because it has already transformed into one.
Just as Vikas Right has its own set of non-negotiables, the Reactionary Right has its set of ideological positions that are not up for negotiations. However, these are very few and can be considered the bare minimum. The first is the beef-eating. It is thoroughly condemned by the Reactionary Right and considered one of the gravest sins that a Hindu could commit. Thus, it puts them at odds with the Vikas Right who believe that an individual should be free to eat what they please and beef-eaters can be staunch Hindus as well; an ideological position that is completely unpalatable to the Reactionary Right.
The second is an opposition to all western ideologies, their ‘true’ versions and false. Secularism, Liberalism, Feminism and the assorted ones that form the complete western memeplex. The Reactionary Right considers even the ‘true’ versions of these ideologies as moral depravities that should have no place in India. Thus, their opposition towards the Left comes from an ideological position that completely rejects the Left’s ideological premise. Needless to say, it puts them in opposition to the Vikas Right as well.
Additionally, the Reactionary Right does not really believe in absolute freedom of expression. However, this does not cause much friction with the Vikas Right as it is considered too trivial a point.
The social conservatives have their own set of ideological inclinations. They believe that things such as premarital sex and alcohol should be avoided, people should get married at a suitable age and have children and they are of the opinion that a society based on Hindu conservative values is infinitely more preferable to one based on liberalism. These are completely mainstream Hindu positions that are endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Hindu society.
The self-identified ‘Trads’ and ‘Blackpillers’ agree with the social conservatives on these basic matters. However, an extremely small fringe section of the former and the latter take it to extremes and advocate positions and indulge in behaviour that is neither endorsed nor appreciated by the social conservatives or the other two camps, which often leads to conflict between these groups as well. It is important to mention here that self-identified Trads essentially represent a faction of people among social conservatives who bond better with each other.
The vicious arguments on social media between the Vikas Right and the Reactionary Right is primarily one that involves people from the former and a fringe section of ‘Trads’ and the Blackpillers. However, the Vikas Right is often inclined to attribute the behaviour of people on the fringes to the entire Reactionary Right because the positions of the latter are not palatable to the former. Meanwhile, social conservatives and ‘Trads’ alike are pilloried for being ‘Shastra thumpers’ by Blackpillers and they, in turn, are denounced by the others as well.
It is important to remember here that all these groups in the Reactionary Right who are denounced by the Vikas Right as ‘Trads’, despite their many differences, have valid points to make. The Blackpillers, for instance, who tend to be the most vicious at times, take after an individual on the fringes of social media discussion who happens to be one of the most brilliant minds in the Reactionary Right. However, due to his ‘Blackpill’ behaviour, his account tends to get suspended pretty quickly. But his threads on history and the unique insights into it he provides are certainly of great worth.
Thus, to sum it up, the Reactionary Right considers the Vikas Right to be ‘Raytawing’ and its members to be ‘Rayta’. The Vikas Right considers the entire Reactionary Right to be ‘Trad’ which is certainly not the case. Even self-identified ‘Trads’ will not fit the definition of ‘Trads’ that the Vikas Right has come up with.
The fundamental difference between the Reactionary Right and Vikas Right stems from the opinions they have of Hinduism. While the former considers Hinduism to have a strict moral code that involves dos and don’ts, the latter believes Hinduism to be a laissez-faire affair that is the embodiment of ‘true secularism’, ‘true feminism’, ‘true liberalism’ and everything else that comes along with it. The Reactionary Right considers this position ‘Rayta’.
It is pertinent to remember here that this is a very broad classification of the Indian Rightwing but one that is simple enough to explain the diversity of opinions within it. Despite the enormous diversity and the occasional volatile arguments between the various camps, it is a point to be noted that most people, regardless of the camp they can be categorized into, can and do have conversations with each other that do not degenerate into obscenities. It is also important to note that all these camps, by virtue of their very existence, have something meaningful to add to the discussion.
Most people, regardless of how they identify themselves or how they are identified as, do not indulge in obscenities and do not engage in these volatile arguments. Even the ones that do often have very salient insights to offer that make the larger discussions much more interesting and fascinating. Social media by its very nature tends to bring out the worst in people. Thus, the arguments are not really surprising. More importantly, even through arguments, some good things eventually are added into the larger narrative.
Despite all these differences and the volatile arguments, these groups have a lot of things in common. The entire Indian ‘rightwing’ agrees on certain basic things: Demography is Destiny, the Left is anti-Hindu, Temples shouldn’t be controlled by the State, RTE is evil, the Judiciary is crazy, Narendra Modi is the best thing to have happened to India since sliced bread, Rahul Gandhi is the epitome of human intelligence. Okay, maybe not the last one but the larger point stands. As long as the Indian rightwing continues to recognize the larger unity of thought, reasonable discussions will continue to occur and the churn in the Indian Rightwing will yield fruitful results.