Maoist cult leader found guilty of raping followers

Aravindan Balakrishnan used sexual degradation and violence to keep his female followers under his control.
Aravindan Balakrishnan used sexual degradation and violence to keep his female followers under his control.

LONDON • A Maoist cult leader has been found guilty of raping and beating his brainwashed female followers, while keeping his own daughter a fearful prisoner for more than 30 years in homes across South London.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, known as Comrade Bala, used sexual degradation and physical and mental violence to keep the women under his control, turning his commune based on communist teachings into his own personal cult, with members who believed him to be a god, prosecutors said.

His own daughter, who was born to one of the women in the collective, was bullied and beaten. She was barely allowed to leave her home and never permitted to go to school, play with friends or even see a doctor, London's Southwark Crown Court was told.

She was not told who her parents were, only learning the identity of her mother after her death when the girl was 14.

When she escaped his clutches two years ago after a fellow member contacted a charity and police because she had become so unwell, she was aged 30, very ill with diabetes and was diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, Reuters reported. It said she was unable to carry out day-to-day tasks or even cross a road.

"There are no words to express the pain that Bala and the collective has caused me. I was bullied, tormented, humiliated, isolated and degraded," his daughter, who is still recovering from her ordeal, said in a statement given to the court. "I lived in constant fear and was deprived of a normal life. I was a non- person, no one knew I existed."

Balakrishnan, a small, grey- haired, bespectacled figure, denied all charges but was convicted of cruelty to a child and false imprisonment, as well as raping, indecently assaulting and causing actual bodily harm to two other women, now both aged 64.

He was the head of a communist group in South London in the 1970s called the Workers' Institute, and a charismatic speaker who attracted followers with his plan to overthrow what he saw as Britain's fascist state. The group's members were allowed to recognise only his authority and that of China's Mao Zedong, but over time, the group's numbers fell. The men were forced to leave and the women were so dominated and brainwashed, they believed he was all-powerful.

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

"It seems extraordinary that Balakrishnan could command such control over so many people," Reuters quoted Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Manson as saying in a statement. "However, all of the victims have told us in great detail that they very much believed his claims of power and greatness and the threats he made to them."

Balakrishnan will be sentenced at a later date.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2015, with the headline 'Maoist cult leader found guilty of raping followers'. Print Edition | Subscribe