London slavery: Women enthralled by Comrade Bala speak up about living in 'isolation' for 30 years

Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab lived for 40 years under the control of Aravindan Balakrishnan, also known as “Comrade Bala”.
Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab lived for 40 years under the control of Aravindan Balakrishnan, also known as “Comrade Bala”.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Aravindan Balakrishnan was jailed for 23 years after being found guilty of raping two of his followers and keeping his own daughter prisoner.
Aravindan Balakrishnan was jailed for 23 years after being found guilty of raping two of his followers and keeping his own daughter prisoner.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - After about 40 years of isolation under a cult-like Maoist sect in London, Malaysian-born Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab finally spoke about her time there in a documentary by BBC2.

The hour-long documentary, titled The Cult Next Door, looked into the life of the group under the control of Aravindan Balakrishnan, also known as "Comrade Bala".

He went to Britain in 1963 at the age of 23 on a British Council scholarship from Singapore.

Balakrishnan, whose Maoist commune transformed into a pseudo-religious cult centred on himself, managed to brainwash the sect members into thinking he was immortal and had supernatural powers.

In January last year, he was jailed for 23 years after being found guilty of raping two of his followers and keeping his own daughter, Katy Morgan-Davies, a fearful prisoner for more than three decades since her birth.

Siti Aishah was 24 years old when she went to Britain in 1967 to study quantity surveying with a Commonwealth scholarship but found herself entangled with the group, and eventually cut herself off from her family.

In the documentary, Siti Aishah, now 72 years old, revealed how Balakrishnan had made wild claims and made his followers obey bizarre rules.

For instance, they were not allowed to go to the dentist. Instead, he said that they should let their teeth "drop naturally" and that by the time they were a 100 years old, their teeth would have regrown.

When one of the commune members, Sian Davies, became pregnant with Morgan-Davies, Balakrishnan told them that the reason her belly was growing larger was due to gas.

When Morgan-Davies was born, he did not reveal who the father was and discouraged his followers from cuddling or caressing the infant even though they were all raising Katy collectively.

Later, when Morgan-Davies was four years old, Siti Aishah explained how the toddler was "denounced" when she wet herself.

"I was so angry about it, I really felt like running out of the house at that time but I didn't," Siti Aishah said, explaining that she did not leave because she had no money or friends and feared being deported.

Central to the story of the cult was how female followers of the group, including Katy, were brainwashed into believing in the existence of an invisible machine, dubbed Jackie, that he could control using his thoughts.

It was their fear of Jackie that allowed Balakrishnan to essentially keep three women as his slaves for 30 years or more.

"Jehovah, Allah, Christ, Krishna and Immortal Easwaran," Morgan-Davies listed off in the preview of the documentary, revealing what Jackie stood for.

"(It was) Bala's mind control machine (which) controls everything in nature and everything in the world," she explained.

In the documentary, Morgan-Davies said they had been told that everything would go against them if they "had done wrong".

She said she was surprised that her taps and toilet still worked after leaving the cult.

"I thought, 'Oh the tap, you're on my side' and I kissed the tap. And hugged the toilet when the flush worked," she added.

Siti Aishah left the commune only when the police arrived following Morgan-Davies' escape with the help of a sect member and a non-governmental organisation.

However, despite the confinement and even the physical abuse she suffered, Siti Aishah said she was happy living in the commune.

"I thought every day was very interesting and I was never, ever bored. There was always something new to learn. There was something new to do.

"I just can't imagine I would have had a better life than that," said Siti Aishah in the documentary.

On Balakrishnan, she said she was "really inspired by him" and thought he was great being able to "clarify" his followers' minds on what to do with their lives.