This is about 600 years old. An ancient mosque in India was demolished without any warning

Indian authorities have demolished a centuries-old historic mosque in the capital New Delhi without any prior notice in what they say is a demolition drive to remove “illegal” buildings from a forest reserve.

The mosque was demolished on Tuesday in a forest in Mehrauli, an affluent area filled with centuries-old ruins of settlements that predate modern Delhi.

The people in charge of the Akhunji Mosque say it is about 600 years old, and that 22 students enrolled in an Islamic boarding school lived there.

Muhammad Dhafar, a member of the mosque's management committee, told Agence France-Presse that the mosque had received no prior notice before the demolition was carried out “in the dark of night.”

Dhofar said that several graves in the mosque complex were also desecrated, and no one was allowed to remove copies of the Quran or other materials from inside the mosque before it was demolished.

He said there is currently no trace of the graves in which many of “our respected persons and ancestors are buried” and the ruins of the mosque and tombs have been removed and dumped elsewhere.

The demolition comes at a sensitive time in India, when Hindu nationalist activists are becoming bolder in their long campaign to replace many major mosques with new Hindu temples.

The Delhi Development Authority, the city's main land management agency responsible for carrying out the demolition, did not respond to the agency's requests for comment.

The demolition of the Akhwanji mosque comes less than a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched dedicated transport lines for visitors to a new Hindu temple built on the site of a former mosque that had seen communal violence.

The new Ayodhya temple dedicated to Hindu god Ram is expected to be officially inaugurated next month on the site of the Babri Masjid, which was demolished by Hindu extremists more than 30 years ago.

Hindu groups have demanded control of the disputed Gyanvapi Mosque, sacred to Hindus, in the Indian city of Varanasi, which they say was built over a Hindu temple centuries ago during the Islamic Mughal Empire.

On Thursday, Hindu activists entered the Gyanvapi Mosque to worship under police protection after a local court gave them permission to do so.

Since Modi took power in 2014, India has seen several incidents of violence between the Hindu majority and the 200 million Muslim minority, which the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has been accused of marginalizing.

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