By BISWAJEET BANERJEE, Associated Press
LUCKNOW, India -- Two farmers fed up with alleged bribery demands emptied three bags filled with slithering snakes in a busy tax office in northern India, an official said Wednesday.
The 40 or so snakes of different sizes and species - including at least four deadly cobras - sent clerks and villagers climbing atop tables and scurrying out the door to escape the office in Basti, about 186 miles (300 kilometers) southeast of Lucknow, said Uttar Pradesh state official Ramsukh Sharma.
"Snakes started climbing up the tables and chairs," he said. "There was total chaos. Hundreds of people gathered outside the room, some of them with sticks in their hands, shouting that the snakes should be killed."
No one was bitten or injured in the incident Tuesday afternoon, and police and forest officials captured the snakes.
The farmers had been asking for tax records for their land in nearby Narharpur village, but tax officials withheld the files for weeks while allegedly demanding bribes.
Sharma said their method of protest was unacceptable. Police are searching for the farmers, who were identified as Hukkul Khan and Ramkul Ram. Khan is known locally as a snake charmer.