Opposition politicians criticized President Francois Mitterrand's government Tuesday for its handling of a huge demonstration by high school students that degenerated into violence.

Police said 83 people still were being held Tuesday following arrests made during and after the demonstration Monday afternoon and evening, many of them caught red-handed looting shops on the fringes of the march from the Place de La Bastille to the Pont de L'Alma.But opposition Rally for the Republic leader Jacques Toubon in the National Assembly accused the government of "having chosen to let things happen."

Television footage showed that riot police did not immediately intervene when radical demonstrators converged on the C and A store on the ground floor of the Tour Montparnasse shopping center on the Left Bank and made off with dozens of dresses, suits and coats.

"The incidents of yesterday are in large part the result of instructions given to the forces of order," Toubon contended.

Opposition leaders accused the government of wanting to see incidents provoked in order to tarnish the image of the great majority of peaceful demonstrators demanding reforms of the education system, especially fewer classes, more teachers and better school security.

"The president of the republic is playing with public opinion, and more seriously still, with the youngsters," said Toubon.

According to figures furnished by independent police unions, 193 police officers were injured Monday and 34 of those were hospitalized, five of them in serious condition.

The high school students have called for another demonstration Friday in the capital to back their demands.