In Depth

Comrade Bala: who is the communist 'cult' leader?

Pensioner Aravindan Balakrishnan accused of rape and imprisoning his own daughter in a London commune

The leader of a secretive communist cult abused women, including his own daughter, over a period of 30 years at a commune in South London, a court has heard.

Aravindan Balakrishnan – known as Comrade Bala – founded a Maoist group known as the Workers Institute in the 1970s to fight the "fascist bourgeoisies".

He was described as "charismatic" and an "energetic speaker" who saw himself as an all-powerful and all-seeing leader acting on behalf of the international proletariat, Sky News reports.

 The collective allegedly developed into a cult after numbers fell. He was eventually left with a following of six women, including his wife, who he allegedly abused both physically and mentally.

Balakrishnan was arrested in November 2013 when his daughter left the commune with two other women.

The 75-year old is on trial facing more than a dozen charges including rape, indecent assault, actual bodily harm, cruelty to a person under 16 and false imprisonment. He denies all the charges.

The prosecution alleges that he imprisoned his daughter in the commune from birth, hiding her from the world and never allowing her to go to school or even to the doctor. Balakrishnan allegedly kept her inside by telling her that she would be killed by "fascists" if she left the commune.

"It doesn't have to be by lock and key. It doesn't have to be chained up," said prosecutor Rosina Cottage. "Over time, the psychological and mental control was so strong over her that she could not exercise any independent choice at all."

He allegedly told the women that he had magical powers and was going to overthrow all governments and become leader of the world. "He said he had a mind-control machine that monitored all their thoughts," said Cottage.

One woman, who attempted escape the commune in 1987, alleges that he punched her repeatedly when he found out. He said that the "fascists had got inside her and he was beating it out of her".

One of the women accusing him of rape said they had to wait "as if waiting for an appointment" to be sexually abused Balakrishnan, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The trial continues.

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