The airport code for a Buddhist tourist destination has triggered India’s homophobia

On a quest to find a logic.
On a quest to find a logic.
Image: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
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The Indian city of Gaya, where Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment, is caught in a row that doesn’t exactly showcase enlightenment.

The airport at the major pilgrimage and heritage site, located in the northern state of Bihar, could soon have its code “GAY” changed. No points for guessing that the existing one is deemed “offensive, embarrassing and inappropriate.”

The parliamentary committee on public undertakings, in its report on Feb. 4, recommended to the Narendra Modi government that Gaya’s code be changed to a “more appropriate one” like YAG.

“The committee has their apprehension that Gaya being a holy city, locals might be finding it offensive or embarrassing on their city being recognised in the international community with the code name GAY. The committee also finds it inappropriate and unsuitable,” it said.

The report recorded the government’s reply on the matter, which included the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA)—it assigned Gaya airport the code GAY—response to the issue. The organisation assigns a two-character code name for airlines and a three-character code for airports for easy identification.

IATA said, “Location codes are considered permanent and cannot be changed without strong justification primarily concerning air safety.” The panel, however, hasn’t found this satisfactory enough and has asked the centre to pursue the matter.

Meanwhile, Indian social media users called out the homophobia among the country’s political class.