New Delhi, India Students protesting education policies they say favor lowcaste Hindus went on strike today, forcing schools and Offices to close in Gujarat state and police braced for possible caste violence.

It was the first major protest by high caste students since July when they ended a campaign of strikes and demonstrations that sparked caste rioting that killed more than 250 people.

News reports said police rounded up more than 300 people and police throughout the state were put on alert.

Shops and offices were closed in the main city of Ahmedabad, about 500 miles southwest of New Delhi, and in two other Gujarat towns, but there were few signs of the strike in most other places, the Press Trust of India said.

No violence was reported.

The statewide strike was called after the state government announced moves to start reserving places for lowcaste Hindus and members of minority tribes in high schools, extending a system already in force at universities nationwide.

Castes are distinct, hereditary Hindu social classes traditionally excluded from social dealings with the others.

The students decided to press ahead with the strike after talks with government officials broke down over the weekend.

Authorities said that rioting broke out last March when high caste students began a series of strikes and demonstrations to protest preferential education policies for lowcaste Hindus.

The violence raged for almost five months, mostly in Ahmedabad, twice forcing the government to order in troops.

Article extracted from this publication >>  December 13, 1985