The heterosexual health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, doesn't like homosexual men. Not because he is upset that no gay man fancies him much, but because he thinks that the time is right to "reach out to the masses if we want to bring down HIV numbers, especially among high-risk category people such as those indulging in unnatural sex, like men who have sex with men". What reaching out to the masses has to do with homosexuality has been left tantalisingly unsaid. But
Mr Azad added to drive home the flabby point that "the disease of men having sex with men is unnatural and not good for Indian society". He was mum about whether it was good for, say, Venezuelan or Pakistan-Occupied Kashmiri society.
Luckily for him, he was not addressing a conference in Orissa where keener listeners would have immediately castigated him for his homophobia. Mr Azad was launching forth about the difficulties of identifying and reaching out to MSMs — not short messaging service for dyslexics but 'Men having Sex with Men' — at the National Convention of Zila Parishad chairpersons and mayors on HIV and Aids in Delhi that was attended by Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, both naturally heterosexual.
Truckers, female sex workers (NGOs and the health ministry haven't yet found a good acronym for male sex workers), drug users sharing needles and heterosexuals, who were keenly following the minister's speech, were relieved that the man responsible for the nation's health policies found them natural and untainted by Mr Azad's — and Baba Ramdev's — identification of a disease. If we have one concern, it is this: that in 2011 India, where homosexuality has been decriminalised, Mr Azad has been silent about the biggest silent terror of them all — onanism, which we're sure he believes to be the root cause of India's 12 million-odd blind population and which is responsible for making so many of us, our national hockey team included, so weak.