New Delhi, India: At least 17 people died in caste and religious rioting in western Gujarat state, including eight people who burned to death in their homes, the Press Trust of India reported today.

As the death toll during four months of sporadic violence rose to 165 with the latest casualties, Gujarat Chief Minister Madhavsinh Solanki made a bid to placate the protesters, who oppose a college quota system that reserves places for low caste Hindus.

Solanki said Sunday he agreed to hold a judicial inquiry into the violence and to release student activists held under the National Security Act.

He also said he would hold up plans to reserve another 18 percent of the seats in colleges for lowcaste Hindus pending orders from the central government.

Gujarat already reserves 81 percent of college and medical school places for lowcaste Hindus and tribal people.

In Ahmedabad, 500 miles southwest of New Delhi, rioters threw homemade fire bombs at houses, burning to death eight members of one family, including three women and two children, the Press Lrust said.

Police fired tear gas and bullets at groups battling with rocks, acid filled light bulbs and burning rags, killing six people, the domestic news agency reported. Another man died of bullet wounds received on Saturday.

When they were surrounded by an angry crowd and hit by a barrage of stones, police shot and killed one man in the town of Surat, where another person died of stab wounds, the Press Trust said.

Leaders of the campaign against privileges based on caste said in a _ joint statement that Solanki’s offers were “ambiguous.”

The leaders, Dr. Gaurang Shah of the student organization and Shankerbhai Patel of the parents organization opposing the government’s policies, said they would have to confer with their representatives throughout the state before deciding to end their campaign.

Shah and Patel appealed to the government to provide effective security that would restore peace to the city.

Article extracted from this publication >>  June 14, 1985