June 22, 2007 / 12:31 PM / 10 years ago

Police fight new menace: cuddling couples

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Police in Indian Kashmir usually accustomed to fighting separatist militants have a new target in their sights -- teenagers canoodling in parks, restaurants and at Internet cafes.

The crackdown aims to curb "immoral activities," a senior police officer said on Friday, adding that dozens of places had been raided across Srinagar, the main city of the region, and at least 10 couples detained over the last three days.

Restaurant and Internet cafe owners had also been asked to get rid of cabins and cubicles as they were being "misused" by teenagers in the Muslim-majority region, he said.

"We received a number of complaints from parents that their children, mostly teenagers, would stray into cyber cafes and restaurants instead of schools and colleges," Parvez Ahmad told Reuters.

"Many boys and girls were seen in objectionable postures ... we informed their parents to take them home," he said.

Srinagar, the centre of a 17-year revolt against Indian rule, has seen women separatists raid restaurants, Internet cafes, liquor shops and suspected brothels in the past to stop what they say are immoral and un-Islamic activities.

But it was the first such drive by police since the insurgency erupted in the Himalayan region in 1989.

More than 42,000 people have since been killed in separatist violence, officials say. Human rights activists put the toll at 60,000 dead or missing.

However, overall violence levels have fallen since India and Pakistan -- both of whom claim Kashmir in full but rule it in parts -- launched a peace process in 2004, officials say.

This has also allowed a marginal easing of security restrictions and freer movement of people in Srinagar, leading to youngsters getting bolder in what is a traditional Islamic society, they say.

A police statement said the department would "continue its drive against immoral activities."

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