I saw The Big Fight on NDTV last week on the topic Is India racist? Set me thinking about the whole idea. Some of the ideas expressed in the debate were terrible. One guy especially kept saying that we are racist because we have terms such as Mallu, Tam, Bong etc. I have never heard this argument before, neither has anyone called this racist. I call myself a Tam or Gult based on the crowd I am with. Most people I interact with do not think these are racial slurs. These are simply shortened names for people belonging to a certain region of the country. So instead of saying Malayalee we say Mallu and so on and so forth. Since when did identification with a region become racist. The Professor on the panel had an interesting point to make when the Sardari jokes (similar to Polish jokes in the US) issue was brought up. Everybody at one time or other in their life has made a Sardarji joke. There was a time in the 80s when there were ethnic tensions with the Sikh community that these jokes were offensive, but now they are acceptable again. Harijan as a word was acceptable in the last century, but you can no longer call people Harijan, you need to refer to them as Dalits. Thus whether something like this is a slur or not is a decision made by the people in general and not something that is definitive.
However, the basic question remains. Is India racist? We have had the caste system in operation for several centuries now (in all its modified twisted form today). Is the caste system a form of racism? I believe that we are a highly prejudiced nation. I am not sure that amounts to racism. The population in India can be divided into two major races, the Aryans and the Dravidians according to me. There is reverse discrimination against the upper castes these days and people belonging to different regions believe they are superior to the others. Discrimination can also stem out of prejudice and preference.
My take on this is that probably 1% of the population is really racist, most Indians are just prejudiced especially along caste and regional lines.