Colombo: Young couples in Sri Lanka are now afraid to even hold hands or kiss in public after police rounded up over 300 people for "indecent behaviour".
Though holding hands is a common sight in the island nation`s public transport, parks and bus stops, no couple is seen kissing or cuddling in public.
Police said these incidents cause embarrassment to ordinary people who are not used to such westernised behaviour.
"Kissing, cuddling and holding hands in public places are indecent behaviour," police spokesman Preshantha Jayakody was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
"But the majority of these couples are school-going children and they come to certain places without their parents` knowledge. That is why we arrested them," he said.
He said they had no choice but to act on public complaints about young lovers kissing and cuddling openly. Police officers said this was the first time they had made such arrests.
Shenali is a student of a leading secondary school in Colombo. She has a boyfriend but now she is scared to meet him after the arrests. "Can holding hands of a loved one be an offence?" Shenali asks.
She says she used to sip a cold drink while holding her boyfriend`s hand or leaned on to him, but now she is afraid to do so.
"If police catch us, my parents would come to know of our relationship," she said.
Meanwhile, Daya Gamage, a bank clerk who travels daily to Colombo by local train, wants the police to raid the trains to prevent such indecent behaviour there.
"Most of the elders look aside when they see such behaviour. If you see some of the couples, you will realise how the Sri Lankan culture is deteriorating. It is sad and police have taken a good action," Gamage said.
According to the police spokesman, no tough legal action will be taken against the arrested people, but they will be strongly advised to behave properly in public places.
However, some couples criticised the police for arresting "innocent" lovers.
"We are not from rich families to go to luxurious hotels to meet our lovers. We go to a park or a snack bar just to talk. Who says that holding hands in a bus is an indecent behaviour? It is pathetic," Samantha, another student, said.