Underbelly of camp life : The alley inside Labour Camp 1 in Sharjah Industrial Area 1. It’s believed the killers used this route to escape Image Credit: XPRESS/Abhishek Sengupta

Sharjah: You don’t get into fist-fights over a pair of shoes, but here in the grungiest of labour camps you could end up either in a hospital bed, or worse, dead.

“A lot has changed since that evening,” says young Maqsoud, a chatty welder from Pakistan.

Inside a labour camp near the Cosmoplast Factory behind Sharjah City Centre in Industrial Area 1, three Bangladeshi men were stabbed to death on January 31.

Two died on the spot and several others were badly injured, including three who are receiving treatment at Kuwaiti Hospital.

All this after a gang-war broke out over ownership of safety boots.

Eyewitnesses said the fight erupted following a dispute over a pair of what many in the camp also refer to as ‘sandals’.

The atmosphere remains tense.

Eager to leave

“No one wants to stay here anymore. Many came back the next day to move out. There’s a feeling of unease and mistrust now because no one imagined such a thing could have ever happened. All this while we had been living like one big family,” said Maqsoud.

Around 500 blue collar workers – mostly from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan – making from Dh500 to Dh3,000 a month, live in this roughly 500 by 100 metre shanty town complex.

It’s dotted by matchbox ‘cottages’ in rows segregated by narrow alleys where runs a different world – of men cleaning and washing near heaps of filth left to rot for days not far from where a labourer cooks his dinner – a spicy curry of chicken and potatoes.

It’s in one of these alleys that D.H.K. and Mohammad A.H., both 24, lay dead not far from room 165 where they lived. A third victim died in hospital.

When XPRESS visited the place this week, a set of clothes still hung outside the room. The door remained locked.

Nazimul Haq Abu Hussain, 22, who lives on Caterpillar Road further down and works in a cafeteria, was among those caught in the melee.

“I had gone to collect a new SIM card from my uncle. I had a day off that day so I planned to stay on overnight. I have no clue how or why I was stabbed.

“I heard a commotion, came out of the room in complete darkness when I was stabbed on the thigh and then again in my back.

“I fell down,” Hussain told XPRESS from his hospital bed, still weak from the blood loss due to the multiple knife wounds.

Bangladeshis employed by various companies formed two rival groups that initially exchanged blows with sticks and iron rods.

Sharjah Police and several ambulances rushed to the compound.

The entire area remained sealed till 3am the following day.

Several workers allegedly involved in the fight were arrested and a manhunt is on to track the prime suspects.

“We never had plenty of anything but we were happy in our own little worlds.

“We cooked and ate together and if we fought, we also settled it amicably,” said Pakistani plumber Mushtaq Ali, 18, who earns Dh600 per month.

“I don’t know why someone would kill for a shoe,” he said.

In June 2012, a row over a Dh45 hair trimmer snowballed into a deadly sword fight in Rolla, Sharjah. It left one dead and four injured.

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