By Upasika Singhal

Imam Zakir Hussain was getting ready for morning prayers early Tuesday when the police came knocking at his Mehrauli mosque. Children who live and study at the madrasa functioning from the premises were told to pack up and leave.

The Akhoondji Masjid and Behrul Uloom madrasa were, later, demolished by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on January 30. Locals claim the mosque was built during Razia Sultana’s reign making the structure nearly 600-700 years old.

Though the premises had a mosque, madrasa and graveyard, the structure is not a notified heritage building. “We were barely given ten minutes to gather our things before the machines came and demolition started,” said Hussain, the mosque’s Imam for the last 1.5 years. He alleged the authorities took away his phone, escorted him away from the site and cordoned it off, deploying CISF personnel along the perimeter; the rubble from the demolition was collected and disposed of almost immediately.

Shamstabrez Khan, whose wife Ishrattun Nisa was buried in the mosque’s graveyard in August 2020, alleged that the graveyard too wasn’t spared with her grave too being desecrated. “My wife died due to liver issues, and finding a graveyard was hard during the pandemic. This was the only place we could find a resting place for her despite living far away in Uttam Nagar,” said Khan, (retired).

Parents of the children who lived in the madrasa were notified of the demolition only after it was done: Mohammad Sohail Sheikh arrived on Wednesday from Kashmir to meet his son only to find the madrasa gone and heavy police presence where it stood.

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