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Indian PM urges calm as anger over gang-rape case escalates

Manmohan Singh appeals for calm and vows to protect women as police today struggled to quell increasing outrage over sex crimes.

NEW DELHI // Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, appealed for calm and vowed to protect women as police today struggled to quell increasing outrage over sex crimes following the gang-rape of a student in India's capital.

With large parts of central Delhi sealed off after a wave of violent protests, Mr Singh said he understood the "genuine anger and anguish at this ghastly incident" a week ago but called for demonstrations to remain peaceful.

"There is genuine and justified anger and anguish at this ghastly incident," he said in a statement issued by his office last night.

"I feel deeply sad at the turn of events leading to clashes between protesters and police forces. I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country."

Protests have been taking place across India over the last week to denounce the police and government over the gang-rape of the 23-year-old student in the capital and the surge of violence against women.

Official figures show that 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year were against women. Delhi has been dubbed the rape capital of India with the number of rapes in the city rising 17 per cent to 661 this year.

The biggest protests were seen in Delhi on Saturday, prompting police to cordon off areas around government buildings.

However fresh clashes erupted yesterday, which the police control room in New Delhi said had left more than 100 people injured, including 60 policemen.

The clampdown was further tightened today, with commuters having to make lengthy detours to make it to work.

The situation has been exacerbated with extra security already planned for the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The venue for a signing ceremony and press conference with Putin and Singh has been shifted.

"No one will be allowed to march towards the parliament or the president's palace. We know people will face problem because of the roadblock," said New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat.

"But we have to stop the angry protest. This just cannot go on."

A television journalist was shot dead in the northeastern town of Imphal, Manipur by police trying to control a protest over the attempted rape of an actress whose attacker remains at large.

The victim of the Delhi gang-rape remains in a critical condition in hospital after suffering injuries during her assault on a bus which began when she and a male companion were picked up after a night out at the cinema.

Police and prosecutors say six men, who were drunk and were joyriding in an off-duty bus with tinted windows, took turns in raping the student before throwing her off the vehicle.

During her assault, the victim suffered serious intestinal injuries from being beaten with an iron rod.

All six of the alleged attackers have now been arrested and remanded in custody.

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