India sets record for anthem-singing

AHMEDABAD • Half a million Indians have set a new world record by performing a mass rendition of their national anthem, as patriotic sentiment rises under a nationalist government.

The Jana Gana Mana anthem was sung by 509,261 people in Gujarat, the home state of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the opening of a Hindu temple, said Guinness World Records.

"The event attracted close to one million people, according to the auditors, but only the above number could be accommodated in the record attempt area," the world record keeper said on its website.

The feat was accomplished late last month but validated only recently by Guinness World Records.

It smashed the previous record of about 254,500 set in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka in 2014.

"We feel very proud to have achieved this record, which is nearly double that of the previous record," said Mr Paresh Gajera, chairman of the organising committee that oversaw the event.

The patriotic effort comes amid a fiery debate in India over exploitation of the anthem, and concerns about overt displays of nationalism under Mr Modi's right-wing administration.

Last November, the Supreme Court ruled that cinemas must play the national anthem before screening movies and audiences should stand up for it, drawing angry accusations of an assault on civil liberties.

There have been reports of cinemagoers being assaulted for refusing to stand, while others were arrested for failing to obey the ruling.

Some liberals say freedom of speech is being stifled by Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, which came to power in 2014.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'India sets record for anthem-singing'. Print Edition | Subscribe