The street vendor who never came home

Mohammed Syed Tambaco disappeared in Kashmir in 1992 after going to play cricket with friends.

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    Noora's son, Mohammed Syed Tambaco, disappeared in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1992 [Azad Essa]

    Noora is a widow who had two sons. Her eldest son, Mohammed Syed Tambaco was a street vendor who sold cheap electrical appliances on the sidewalk of his neighbourhood in Srinagar to provide for his family.

    On the morning of February 24, 1992, the 28-year-old left his home to play cricket at a nearby ground, but when he did not return home with the other young men from the area Noora became worried and asked his friends about his whereabouts.

    They said that Mohammed had left the ground much earlier, after bowling just a few balls. A shopkeeper at a store near to the ground said that he had seen a young man being bundled into a military jeep.

    The family lodged a First Information Report (FIR) at a local police station. They looked for Mohammed at Papa 2, the then infamous torture centre, and at other military and police detention centres and prisons, but they found no trace of him.

    Click here for more on the Kashmir conflict

    After a difficult year-and-a-half they gave up actively searching.

    With their sole breadwinner gone, the family faced severe economic hardships. Noora had to rent most of the rooms in her house out, leaving just the kitchen for the family to sleep in.

    Mohammad had been married for a year-and-a-half and had a five month old son when he disappeared.

    Contrary to traditional practise in Kashmir, where half widows, as the wives of the disappeared are known, are unable to marry for years on end, Mohammed's wife remarried a year-and-a-half later - taking her son to live in her second husband's home.

    While the family is now split, Noora's former daughter-in-law tries to maintain some contact with Mohammed's family.

    Like his older brother, Noora's youngest son became a street vendor. He is now married with three children and tries to support his family of six on just 3,000 rupees (about $70) a month.

    Noora says that she does not expect her son to ever return, but just the faintest hope that he might makes it hard to attain emotional closure.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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