Indian-origin cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan jailed for rape dies in UK prison


Balakrishnan, known to his followers as Comrade Bala, was sentenced for six counts of indecent assault, four counts of rape and two counts of actual bodily harm back in 2016

Indian-origin cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan jailed for rape dies in UK prison

File image of Aravindan Balakrishnan. AP

An Indian-origin man who ran a secretive extremist Maoist cult in London and was sentenced to 23 years in jail by a UK court for a string of sexual assaults six years ago has died in jail.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, known to his followers as Comrade Bala, was sentenced for six counts of indecent assault, four counts of rape and two counts of actual bodily harm back in 2016.

The 81-year-old found guilty of “brutal” violence died in custody at HMP Dartmoor prison in south-west England on Friday, the UK Prison Service said.

The cult leader had been convicted following a jury trial in December 2015, where it emerged that he had kept his daughter in captivity for over 30 years of her life.

The daughter described her situation in court as “horrible, dehumanising and degrading”.

Sentencing Balakrishnan in January 2016, the judge said: “You decided to treat her as a project, not a person. You claimed to do it for her, to protect her from the outside world, but you created a cruel environment.”

History

Balakrishnan, born in a village of Kerala, lived and grew up in Singapore and Malaysia before moving to the UK in 1963 to study at the London School of Economics.

It is there that he met Chanda, whom he married in 1969 at about the time he began his collective.

Scotland Yard raided the couple’s flat in Brixton, south London, in November 2013 after two followers had called the Palm Cove Society charity seeking help.

Balakrishnan had denied charges of rape and told the jury that he was “the focus of competition” between “jealous” women who made sexual advances at him.

Daughter’s account

Katy Morgan-Davies branded her father a “narcissist and a psychopath” and added: «The people he looked up to were people like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein — you couldn’t criticise them either in the house, reported The Mirror.

«They were his gods and his heroes. These were the sort of people he wanted to emulate.»

During her torment, she had been beaten and banned from singing nursery rhymes, going to school, or making friends.

She accused her father of using the cult as a “pilot unit” for his grand ambitions of taking over the world.

She said: «I used to think, ‘God, if the whole world is going to be like this, what way out is there? How am I going to live? I cannot live in this. «So I used to think that the best way would be to die.»

She escaped in 2013, after memorising the number for an anti-slavery charity she saw on the news.

The Cult

Balakrishnan’s political activities were claimed to have been motivated by atrocities committed by the British empire in Singapore, where he was brought up.

In 1963, he sailed to Britain and applied for a degree at LSE. He said he had come from a state of emergency in Singapore, post-World War II where the “cruelty was unbelievable”, especially to those who helped the British he claimed.

Balakrishnan told the court: “The cruelty, killing, torturing, arresting and whole families were deported back to China. That is not something anyone can like.” In the UK, he soon became involved in the political scene and quickly described himself as a “revolutionary socialist”, according to Cornwall Live.

He began speaking publicly and recruiting fellow students, in particular he favoured Malaysian nurses, for his political cause. In the early 1970s, Balakrishnan set up the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, his cult, aimed at overthrowing the “fascist state” and insisted his followers called him Comrade Bala.

He convinced his followers into thinking that he could read their minds and warned them of a supernatural force called Jackie who would cause natural disasters if he was ever disobeyed.

The main belief of the group was that only he and Chinese dictator Mao Zedong had the authority to “establish an international dictatorship of the proletariat”. From there, over time, his views appear to become more and more extreme and the jury heard terrifying details of his cult like how his followers were ordered to rejoice in the deaths of anti-communists.

Police say

The sentencing followed a lengthy investigation into a case which Scotland Yard detectives described as “completely unique”.

Detective chief superintendent Tom Manson, from the Metropolitan Police’s Organised Crime Command, said at the time: “It seems extraordinary that Balakrishnan could command such control over so many people, 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. They all described feelings of fear and being totally controlled him.

“All of the women have faced huge challenges in adapting to day-to-day life since they left Balakrishnan’s control but with the support of a number of charities and professionals are making exceptional progress and their bravery deserves recognition and praise,” he added.

With input from agencies

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