Religious Traditions of India – Trads, Raytas, and Muscular Nationalism in Contemporary India

In January 2022, charges were brought against two young men who were thought to be behind an app called “Bulli Bai” that created a mock auction of Muslim women to be harassed, assaulted, raped, and killed. This app was created five months after “Sulli Deals” which was also a platform to harass prominent Muslim women journalists and activists. The two suspects were granted bail in March 2022 with the court justifying their decision on “humanitarian grounds” and arguing that one was a “first time offender.” The arrests of young Hindu male students behind the apps also revealed a secretive underground network of Hindu extremists who called themselves “trads.” Influenced by alt-right and neo-Nazi movements, trads or Hindu traditionalists espouse misogyny, caste-based violence, and genocide against minorities as the only viable method for making India into a Hindu nation. While trads offer a glimpse into the endgame of violent Hindu extremism, “raytas” or those whom trads view as “soft,” are those who see legislative and policy-based avenues as the best way to build a Hindu rashtra. This talk explores the rift between trads and raytas within the far-right world of Hindu nationalism to show how both groups reinforce the muscular nationalist politics that ground India’s push towards becoming a HIndu nation. Specifically, it considers how this conflict reveals the depth of Hindutva chauvinism within the Indian polity such that the question of whether a Hindu rashtra is desirable is no longer the issue. Rather, the debate has shifted to how this goal can be achieved most efficiently.


Dr. Dheepa Sundaram (she/her/hers) is an assistant professor of Hindu Studies at the University of Denver which sits on the unceded tribal lands of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people. She is a scholar of hate politics, ritual, nationalism, and digital culture in South Asian contexts. Her research focuses the formation of Hindu virtual religious publics through online platforms, social media, apps, and emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Her current monograph project titled Globalizing Dharma: The Making of a Global Hindu Brand examines how commercial ritual websites fashion a new, digital canon for Hindu religious praxis, effectively “branding” religious identities and promoting a cosmopolitan, middle-class Hinduism.