Nepalese Man Bites Cobra: Now That’s News!
It was the evening of 21 August, around 7.30pm. Mohammed Salmodin Miya, 55, was working in his paddy field in Morang, Barangdanga Nepal, a village 200 kilometres southeast of the capital Kathmandu. It was an ordinary day and an ordinary activity that Mohammed and his forefathers had pursued for decades, perhaps even centuries. But the day ended up quite differently and the previously little-known farmer was thrust into international spotlight.
Out of the gentle reeds of the paddy field, a cobra suddenly bit Miya on his right leg. Although a typical farmer, Miya’s response was anything but typical. He didn’t stop his farming to go to hospital, instead he attacked back and chose to bite the snake to death.
“A snake charmer told me that if a snake bites you, bite it until it is dead and nothing will happen to you,” the BBC quoted Mohammed Salmodin Miya as saying. With this knowledge, and with his anger, Miya bit the cobra instead of hitting it with a stick.
It is reported that it took around nearly 15 minutes for Miya to bite the snake to death.
Later, Miya was taken to a nearby health centre for a checkup. They confirmed that his health was well. Uma Prasad Chaturbedi, deputy of superintendent of police and spokesperson for Morang Police, confirmed that Miya is still in good health. “He is back to his normal work,” said Chaturbedi.
“This is actually a rare incident. He seems quite different from the normal people,” he added.
After biting the snake to death Miya displayed the cobra to the public and he is now famous internationally. Even anthropologists in Nepal are finding it incredible. “This is an exceptional case. This is an extreme case,” said Nani Ram Khatri, anthropologist at Center for Nepal and Asian studies (CNAS).
The news soon went viral on the internet. Hundred of tweets popped in. At a time when no significant coverage of news on Nepal is found in the international media, this story got some space.
Nepal had been in the international news during the Maoist insurgency, 2006 historical April movement and the start of the peace process, but after the constitution-making process started most of the international news coverage has been related to plane crashes and, once in a while, the army integration process. It has been largely ignored after the Constitution Assembly failed to deliver a new constitution.
This story got more tweets and “likes” than other stories that came on the same day. International news media including The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Global Post, The Daily Telegraph and others published the story.
Charles Anderson Dana (1819-1897), American journalist, rightly said: When a dog bites a man that is not news, but when a man bites a dog that is news.
“Novelty value is timeless in news and it’s eternally relevant,” says P Kharel, professor of journalism at Tribhuwan University.
Kharel noted that the way news was carried by the international and social media proves that unusual, unexpected incidents always make a good story. In the last 30 years Kharel says he has read two stories about a man biting a dog in Indian newspapers and this is the third one that was about a man biting a snake.
This incident was given an even deeper meaning, one that demonstrated human nature. ”It seems that the man (Miya) is reactive and it also gives a picture that people are more reactive (and want to take revenge) these days,” added Khatri, the anthroplogist at CNAS.
Miya is lucky that he was able to kill the cobra whether in revenge or not. A cobra bite is a life-threatening incident. If untreated his life would have been in danger. According to a BBC report, 5.5 million snake bites cause up to 125,000 deaths a year.
Nepalese law doesn’t include the cobra as an endangered species, otherwise Miya might have been arrested for killing the venomous snake. That, too might have made for an interesting, international story, but probably not viral.