Cult leader abused women, court told

Aravindan Balakrishnan arriving at London's Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday with an unidentified woman. He faces charges relating to three women, including his daughter, whom he allegedly abused in his Maoist commune.
Aravindan Balakrishnan arriving at London's Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday with an unidentified woman. He faces charges relating to three women, including his daughter, whom he allegedly abused in his Maoist commune.PHOTO: REUTERS

He allegedly used fear, sexual degradation and violence to control them in London commune

LONDON • The daughter of a violent Maoist cult leader who allegedly imprisoned her for 30 years in south London wrote a note to him after she escaped, rejecting what she called her "life of abuse", British prosecutors said yesterday.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, allegedly used fear, sexual degradation and physical and mental violence to keep her and other women under his control, turning his commune based on communist teachings into his own personal cult, London's Southwark Crown Court was told.

He faces charges relating to three women. In relation to two of them, he denies four counts of rape, seven counts of indecent assault and three counts of assault causing actual bodily harm. He also denies child cruelty and false imprisonment in relation to his daughter.

Balakrishnan, the court has heard, insisted to his followers who lived with him that only he and China's Mao Zedong, who died in 1976, had the authority to "lead the world to revolution to establish an international dictatorship of the proletariat", reported Guardian newspaper yesterday.

"This case concerns the brutal and calculated manipulation by one man to subjugate women under his control," prosecutor Rosina Cottage said.

"Each woman lived a life of violence, fear, isolation and confinement. They were forced into sexual acts over which they had no choice and were deliberately degrading and humiliating. He seemed to exult in his power over them," she told the court on Thursday, reported Reuters.

Balakrishnan's daughter was born in the south London commune in 1983 and left it in October 2013. The court heard that an attempt to leave eight years earlier, when she was 22, ended when the police sent her back to her father.

After she left the commune, she wrote: "I've pleaded with you not to treat me like this, but instead you've treated me to even more abuse... I'm sick to death of being held hostage."

She went on to detail the damage to her mental and physical health which she said his violent and abusive regime had inflicted upon her, Guardian said.

Balakrishnan was the head of a communist group in the 1970s called the Worker's League in south London. A charismatic and energetic speaker, he attracted students and followers with his plan to overthrow what he saw as Britain's fascist state.

Over time, the group's numbers waned, the men were forced to leave and the dwindling group of women were so brainwashed they believed that he was all-powerful and all-seeing, the prosecutor said.

The women were allowed no friends or social life and the house was locked all the time, which Balakrishnan said was to keep out fascist agents, the court heard.

They reported each other to Balakrishnan if they were not following orders. In the 1980s, the women began to be sexually abused when his wife was sent away.

Balakrishnan was once a Singaporean. He is believed to have come to Singapore from India, and left to study in Britain in 1963. His Singapore citizenship - registered in 1960 - was revoked in 1977 when he was already living in London.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline 'Cult leader abused women, court told'. Print Edition | Subscribe