"Lambeth slavery case". In 2016 a group of women in London England were released from slavery in a Maoist commune run by Aravindan Balakrishnan, a Communist cult leader. He was jailed for imprisoning and maltreating female followers of his group, including his own daughter. He was convicted of using a range of tactics including sexual abuse and brainwashing to enslave them for decades.
Balakrishnan is often stated to have been British but he was not British either by birth, parentage or legal citizenship. He was born in Kerala, India in 1940. When he was 10 his family moved to Malaya, where his father was a soldier. What he saw of the British suppression of Singapore during the 'Time of Emergency' between 1954 and 1960 convinced him that Britain was Fascist. He studied at the University of Singapore, where became a Communist and believed that he was in danger of imprisonment if this was known. He acquired a Singapore passport. He emigrated to the UK in 1963 on a British Council scholarship to study at the notoriously Socialist-leaning London School of Economics, where he became a follower of the Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-Tung. He married his wife Chandra in 1971.
Balakrishnan joined the UK Communist Party and built up a following by giving lectures on his radical beliefs and staging various sit-ins and protests. He was a regular attender of London demonstrations, where he waved Chairman Mao banners and addressed the crowds. Conferences would begin with a clenched fist salute to the Chinese revolutionary leader. David Vipond, a communist at the time who also met him at meetings, said: "Balakrishnan was charismatic and dominant. There was money, they [the leadership] ate well. Balakrishnan did not see himself as being one of the 'plebs’. He saw himself as a big shot.”
In 1974, Balakrishnan was expelled from the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) for disagreements. In return, he published a leaflet through his Workers’ Institute labeling his old party “fascists”.
In 1977, the Singaporean authorities claimed that Balakrishnan and others, many of them former Singaporean students he had associated with in London, were plotting to overthrow Lee Kuan Yew, President of Singapore. So Balakrishnan was stripped of his citizenship of Singapore but never became a British citizen either. He remained as an illegal immigrant.
His south London commune started in the Mao-Tse-Tung Memorial Centre in Brixton, East London in 1976, under the title Workers' Institute of Marxism–Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.
Balakrishnan believed he had to scrub his followers clean of the bourgeois culture and lifestyle. Members were handed a rota of chores and only allowed to go out in pairs. He told them he was "nature and nature was him" so that everything was controlled by him from the sun, the moon, wind and fires. He claimed he could overthrow governments and control natural disasters. After the more liberal members of his group drifted away, a cult of around 10 female members formed around him.
The women believed he had the power of life and death over them all. In order to terrify them, Balakrishnan invented "Jackie" – a type of dangerous, mystical creature that monitored all thought and could control minds. It was used to threaten the women with torture and death. Their family members were branded fascist agents and ostracised. Those who worked had to donate all of their wages to the commune.
They included a trade unionist, a nurse, and a Welsh former student of Cheltenham Ladies College; Sian Davies, whom would later bear him a daughter. He told other members of the collective that her birth was as result of electronic warfare. Balakrishnan began sexually abusing two of the women in 1979. All of the women were beaten and four of them, not including his wife, were said to have been sexually assaulted or raped.
Between 1986 and 1992, three of the women found the courage to make their escape. Miss Davies died in 1997 after falling from a bathroom window at the commune in mysterious circumstances. Another died in 2001 after falling and hitting her head on a kitchen cabinet.
Three others, including a daughter he had kept imprisoned since birth for 30 years, only made their escape when one of them used a secret phone to contact a charity in October 2013, and the police were called.
Trial and conviction
In court in 2015, Balakrishnan revealed many signs of paranoid delusion. He told jurors that a challenge to his leadership resulted in the 1986 space shuttle disaster and that his invisible accomplice “Jackie" was responsible for the death of a Malaysian prime minister and the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. He said Jackie was an "electronic satellite warfare machine" built by the Communist Party of China and the People's Liberation Army. "It has got unbelievable control," he said. "It can pull your head out from your body.”
Nevertheless, he was convicted at Southwark Crown Court, where he was sentenced to 23 years in prison.