Tong-Len Charitable Trust - Compassion in Action: charity based in dharamsala supporting displaced communities in Himachal Pradesh, India. Compassion in Action
  Displaced Communities

Many people are familiar with global refugee movements. We are all aware of those who are forced to flee from their own land and seek asylum in another country. However, there are many millions of people who face similar predicaments, yet remain within their own nation. They have left their home, are often forced into extreme poverty, and often encounter the same feelings of loss and helplessness that afflict cross-border refugees. Internally Displaced Persons however, remain outside the radar of international aid, and rarely attract the attentions of the media.

Internally Displaced People are alienated in their own land. In some cases, conflict or suppression can drive them from their home region, though in most instances, it is a failing economy or agricultural factors - such as degrading land or drought - that force them to migrate. Tong-Len works with a particular community of people who were once agriculturalists and pastoralists in regions in the west and centre of India. Encroaching desert and sustained drought put an end to their livelihoods, and in the hope of securing an income elsewhere, they moved north to Himachal Pradesh, where they now comprise a community of over 250 families. Resident in the town of Dharamsala, they survive through insecurity and scarcity, generating incomes through temporary work and informal trade. Most have neither the means, nor the opportunities, to provide stable homes for their families. In addition, they find themselves in an environment that can be at times hostile to them, with social as well as economic burdens bearing heavily upon their lives.


Survey of the Slum Settlements in the Kangra Valley

Tong-Len has carried out an initial survey of the slum settlements in the Kangra valley:

Download our Displacement in Himachal Pradesh Fact-sheet
Download our The Scale of Displacement Fact-sheet


Stories from Dharamsala

Lako Devi lives in Dharamsala with her one son and five daughters. She came to Himachal Pradesh before they were born, when her family's land in Rajasthan began to yield too little to provide for them. Years of irregular harvests had put an end to their livelihood, forcing her and others to migrate in search of work. When she arrived in Dharamsala, she looked for work and for somewhere to stay, but could find nothing. She could gain no government support, and so moved into a temporary shelter with a community of Rajasthanis already resident in Himachal Pradesh. She lives in the same situation today, with no running water or electricity. It is a hard life, she says, particularly during the winter. Lako's son is coping with a deteriorating mental illness, and she fears that if she cannot find a way of earning extra income, she will not be able to afford medication for him.

Gemal Ram moved to Himachal Pradesh 18 years ago. Like Lako, his land suffered from sustained drought, and he came with his family in search of work. Occasionally he finds work as a day labourer, but only earns between 20 and 30 Rupees per day (approx. 25 - 35 pence). He lives with his two parents, wife and five children. Gemal wishes he could find a way to earn a steady income, so that his children could go to school, and he could build a permanent house for his family. However, he fears for their future, as they are living on land that is not theirs, and the risk of being forced off it is very real. With a permanent job, says Gemal, he would no longer have to worry about these things.

Find out more about Internal Displacement from:
- United Nations High Commission for Refugees (www.unhcr.ch)
- Forced Migration Online (www.forcedmigration.org)
- Refugees International (www.refugeesinternational.org)