Cult leader 'imprisoned daughter for 30 years'

BBC News/November 12, 2015

The leader of a communist cult effectively imprisoned his own daughter for 30 years and carried out a "brutal" campaign of "sexual degradation" against followers, a court has heard.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, of Enfield, convinced female followers he was "all-powerful and all-seeing", Southwark Crown Court was told.

He denies charges including four counts of rape and seven of indecent assault.

Jurors also heard Mr Balakrishnan's daughter "barely left the house".

She was unaware that one of the cult followers was her mother.

'Calculated manipulation'

Prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC told the court that, in his youth, Mr Balakrishnan was a charismatic man who brainwashed his followers.

"This case concerns the brutal and calculated manipulation by one man, this defendant, to subjugate women under his control.

"In order to bend them to his will, he used mental and physical dominance and violence, sexual degradation and, in relation to one, his daughter, he controlled every sphere of her life to the extent that she was unable either emotionally or physically to leave his influence until she was 30 years old and was in fact very ill with diabetes."

The court heard that in the 1970s Mr Balakrishnan was at the helm of a communist group known as the Workers Institute, based in Acre Lane in Brixton, south London.

Beguiled by his charisma and radical politics, a number of people became his followers, jurors heard.

But as time went by his political influence "waned" and the group dwindled until just a small number of women were left.

Ms Cottage said: "The atmosphere within the collective was controlled by the defendant and his moods. Each woman lived a life of violence, fear, isolation and confinement."

'Beaten and separated'

His daughter was born into the collective in the early 1980s and "had no independent life" at all, the court heard.

She had been unaware that one of Mr Balakrishnan's followers, was her mother.

Only after her death did she learn of their true relationship.

No one outside the sect knew a child was in the house, and the cult followers lived in constant fear that she might be discovered.

Diaries she kept reveal the "unbearable tedium of her life" and brief moments of "joy at the smallest sign of affection", said Ms Cottage.

"She was bullied, beaten and separated from the world.

"She never went to school, she never played with a friend, she never saw a doctor or a dentist.

"Her freedom of movement was restrained to the extent that, even though she could have left physically, the power that the defendant exercised over her meant that she could never leave. She tried once."

'Lord and master'

In a diary entry written when she was 12, Mr Balakrishnan's daughter wrote: "We are disrespecting AB so much... I must learn to serve him more faithfully in future.

"Of course he is merciful but that is no excuse. He is my lord and master."

In 2013, she called a women's charity she had seen featured in a BBC TV documentary.

The subsequent police investigation led to Mr Balakrishnan's prosecution.

Mr Balakrishnan also denies three counts of actual bodily harm, cruelty to a child under the age of 16 and false imprisonment.

The trial continues.

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