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Students left to fend for themselves
Principal washes her dirty linen in Public

A fight between Safia Iqbal, principal of Scholar School in the Muslim locality of Abul Fazal Enclave, New Delhi and Ishaat-e-Islam Trust (IIT) of Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind for the possession of the school premises, has left students to fend for themselves. The school has been closed without warning parents. Students have been stranded, trying desperately to seek admission to other institutions. 

Results of the annual examinations were declared in the second half of May, when admission in other schools was already completed. Even at the time of declaration of results, parents were not informed that the school was going to be closed. They got the information to this effect in the last week of June. 

Students have been caught in a cleft, still thanks to a property dispute between the feisty Safia and the forgetful Jamaat leaders. Safia claims that the IIT had leased the land, on which the school stands, to her for 99 years. The document she shows in proof say IIT had leased it only for five years. On expiry of the lease, she got a fresh one for five years, which expired on March 31, 2000.

After that IIT refused to extend the lease. Safia's plea to the Delhi High Court was also turned down. "The plaintiffs have failed to establish any right to continue in the property to show any entitlement under the agreement," the court order said. Describing her possession of the school property as "illegal," the court dismissed the application with costs, and observed that "the plaintiffs are not entitled to run the school." Safia was also reprimanded for acting in bad faith and concealing facts. Sensing that she was fighting a losing battle, Safia, who carries her Islamist identity on her sleeves began a campaign against Jamaat-e-Islami-leaders.

With a pamphleteering campaign targetting Muslim homes and mosques, Safia dragged the Jamaat's respectable leader Maulana Shafi Moonis through dirt. Fortunately, the dirt did not stick. IIT was perfectly within the rights not to extend the lease. The court agreed.

Finding her hold slipping on millions-worth of real estate, she dragged in Islam on her side. She asked for a fatwa whether an outsider living in the house where a purdah-observing Muslim woman was residing was doing the proper thing. She got the reply that no one who is a non-Mahram should do that. She concealed the facts that the alleged 80-year old intruder (who is a member of the committee which is entitled to run the institution) was not living in her room, that her own grown up son and a number of school teachers were living with her all the time during this episode.

Now Safia called a press conference. Brandishing the fatwa like a sabre, she declared that the Jamaat vice-president had been caught in the wrong, trying to harass a pious Muslim woman, the emphasis being on “pious” and “Muslim”. 

Like the sleight of hand for which she got the court's censure, this time too she had creatively interpreted the fact to the mufti. Maulana Shafi Moonis was not living in her room. He was living in a separate room, but living there nonetheless as a member of the committee which is supposed to run the school, wary of her moves.

After treating the preponderantly non-Muslim press corps of Delhi to niceties of hijab and mubahala, she veered round to the real subject-- the property she was reluctant to leave even after the lease was over. Much of the press, which was in any case not the wiser for the crash course in the finer points of Islam, found this sudden shift from the sacred to the secular disconcerting. Safia declared that she would appreciate mediation from prominent Muslims in this dispute. The IIT does not think it is dispute at all.

In this unseemly caterwaul between self-proclaimed Islamists, common not-so-good Muslims are the worst sufferers. We have not heard the last from them. And what about the career of hundreds of children? Nobody wants to address this question, not even the most pious of folk.
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