NEW DELHI - Indian authorities throttled movement in the heart of the capital on Monday, shutting roads and railway stations in a bid to restore law and order after police fought pitched battles with protesters enraged by the gang rape of a young woman.

In an unusual televised address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for calm following the weekend clashes in New Delhi and vowed to punish the rapists for their "monstrous" crime.

Singh's government, often accused by critics of being out of touch with the aspirations of many Indians, has been caught off-guard by the depth of the popular outrage as protests have snowballed and spread to other cities. India is seen as one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman.

Instead of channeling the outrage, the government has found itself on the defensive over the use of force against the protesters and complaints that it has done little in its eight years in power to create a safer environment for women.

The protests have been the biggest in the capital since 2011 demonstrations against corruption that rocked the government.

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