Just when India was moving away from the diddly image of being the land of snake-charmers, we had the Orissa Assembly allegedly invaded by a King cobra last Thursday. Or so say alleged witnesses who spotted the snake near the designated reporters’ table during routine house cleaning. The alleged snake apparently slithered into the area earmarked for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Even as security personnel, forest officials and a sniffer dog were pressed into duty, the elusive snake remained elusive. After the initial hour-long adjournment by the Speaker to facilitate the serpentine search operation, the House was adjourned for a day to find the blasted creature.
There could be two fall-outs of this ‘unfinished’ incident: one, legislators in Orissa will probably never pay the kind of attention they did to matters of business before the cobra scare, forever fearing a venomous strike; two, there’s the theory that there was no snake to begin with. This ‘phantom snake’ theory has already gained ground among Opposition leaders in the state who now believe that Mr Patnaik and his partymen came up with this cunning plan of a dangerous snake to postpone debates and the passing of bills.
While the truth about the snake is still out there, the fact that it is no laughing matter was driven home last year when a folk artist, Santosh Behera, died of a cobra bite while performing the traditional ‘Shiva Tandava’ (Shiva’s dance of destruction) in an Orissa village. Which just goes to show that however ‘modern’ the business of launching Agni missiles from Orissa’s Bhadrak district might be, in the epicentre of the state capital, the ‘old’ scare of snakes remains. Now to bring on the tigers and elephants. [The snake reportedly caught on Saturday was apparently not the rogue reptile that disrupted democracy on Thursday . The problem, alas, remains.]