Hindustan Community House


This organization, founded by the wealthy Indian Kundan Lal Jalie in 1937, aimed to cater to the needs of Indians in east London, especially former lascars, by offering them low-cost lodging, as well as food and clothing, and helping them to secure employment. Further, Indian doctors volunteered at the centre, providing free medical advice to their working-class compatriots, and English classes were offered, both to workers and to children. The HCH was also a social centre, providing a gramophone and records to enable East End South Asians to listen to Indian music, as well as facilities for games and sport. The HCH was made possible by donations from wealthy Britons, including, reportedly, Edith Ramsay, as well as a Cambridge undergraduate named Thomas Tufton who donated £22,000 after hearing Jalie lecture on the plight of Indians in Britain. The centre was razed in the blitz, and its residents taken first to Tilbury and then to Coventry to find work.

Although ostensibly a social organization, the HCH also had political links. A government surveillance report from 1939 remarks on the Communist and anti-British propaganda being carried out among Indian seamen and pedlars at the organization, and suggests that Jalie encouraged this. Surveillance reports on Jalie also remark on his links with the India League and the Indian Seamen’s Welfare League


Hindustan Community House First Report, April 1940, Tower Hamlets Archives Collection

Secondary works: 

Solokoff, Bertha, Edith and Stepney (London: Stepney Books Publications, 1987)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)


This report of the Hindustan Community House outlines its aims and objectives under the headings ‘Food, clothing and shelter’, ‘Medical work’, ‘Employment’, ‘Educational’ and ‘Social’, and acknowledges the financial support and social work that made it possible.

Date began: 
01 Jan 1937

Since the completion of the House, fifty men have lived in it and another fifty have taken meals in it. Indian or English food is available for these men. To enable the fullest use to be made of the House its charges for board of lodging are fixed at the lowest possible figure.

The House has been able to accommodate shipwrecked sailors, and Indians stranded in London.

Two Indian doctors, who have returned to India, attended the weekly clinic and gave free medical advice. The new surgery has been equipped by an Indian doctor. It is open three nights a week for free medical advice and attention. A fourth Indian doctor is in charge.

Two classes in English with an average of fifteen to twenty students were held every week night. These were discontinued on account of the war, but have since been restarted.

A class in English and Urdu for Indian children was discontinued owing to the evacuation of the children.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Kundan Lal Jalie


This extract gives evidence of a developing sense of community among Indians in London in the 1930s and 1940s. The involvement of Indian doctors in the House, as well as the English classes and indeed its very establishment by Jalie, emphasize the existence of significant interaction between the Indian working class and middle class in Britain and the transgression of social boundaries by virtue of a shared national and/or ethnic minority identity. The fact that the residents of the House were offered Indian food as well as English food, and that classes were offered in Urdu as well as English, suggests the combination of an accommodation to British culture with a retention of indigenous cultural practices – perhaps a consequence of the fact that this welfare work was carried out by Indians (rather than by the British).


Lord Halifax (attended the opening centre of the HCH), Edith Ramsay (donated money to the HCH and offered advice and help to the Indians who frequented it), Lord Snell (attended the opening centre of the HCH).

Date ended: 
01 Jan 1941
Archive source: 

First Report, Tower Hamlets Archives Collection

L/PJ/12/630, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Precise date ended unknown: 
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