Aravindan Balakrishnan

A Maoist cult leader’s descent into tyranny and abuse under the guise of revolutionary socialism.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, also known as Comrade Bala, was a Maoist cult leader who established a reign of terror over his followers in London, spanning several decades from the 1970s until his arrest in 2013. Born in Kerala, India, Balakrishnan moved to Singapore with his father before relocating to the UK in 1963 to pursue further education at the London School of Economics. His early experiences in Singapore, marked by what he described as the “cruelty” of the post-World War II emergency period, shaped his radical political views.

Balakrishnan’s descent into cult leadership began in the early 1970s when he founded the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. Under the guise of overthrowing the fascist state, he insisted his followers call him Comrade Bala, asserting that only he and Mao Zedong had the authority to establish an international dictatorship of the proletariat. His ideology quickly escalated into extreme beliefs, and he utilized a combination of physical and psychological abuse to maintain control over his followers.

One of the most harrowing aspects of Balakrishnan’s cult was his treatment of his own daughter, Katy Morgan-Davies, who was born to one of his followers and kept captive for over 30 years. Morgan-Davies was subjected to severe abuse, isolated from the outside world, and indoctrinated with her father’s extremist views. She was not allowed to attend school, make friends, or even sing nursery rhymes. Balakrishnan’s control extended to fabricating a fictitious robot named Jackie, which he claimed could read minds, further instilling fear and obedience among his followers.

In 2013, following the escape of his daughter, who memorized an anti-slavery charity’s number from a news broadcast, authorities arrested Balakrishnan and his wife. In 2016, he was convicted of multiple charges, including child cruelty, false imprisonment, and assault, and was sentenced to 23 years in prison, where he died in 2022.

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