Aishah recalls enslaved life in sect

The Star, Malaysia/January 30, 2017

By Danial Albakri

Petaling Jaya -- In 1967, Malaysian-born Aishah Wahab left home for London with a Commonwealth scholarship in hand and a fiance but ended up enslaved in a cult-like Maoist sect for a good 40 years.

In the early 1970s, the quantity survey student came under the control of Aravindan Balakrishnan, also known as “Comrade Bala”, and cut off ties with her family and fiance.

Aishah, now 72, told BBC2 in a documentary titled The Cult Next Door, how Aravindan made wild claims and got his followers to obey bizarre rules. She was 23 when she went to London.

The hour-long documentary which aired last week looked into life in the group under Aravindan’s rigid control.

Aravindan, whose Maoist commune transformed into a pseudo-religious cult centred on himself, managed to brainwash members into thinking he was immortal and had supernatural powers.

On Jan 29, last year, he was sentenced to 23 years jail after being found guilty of raping two of his followers and keeping his own daughter, Katy Morgan-Davies, a fearful prisoner for more than three decades from her birth.

In the documentary, Aishah said that one of his strange rules involved why they were not allowed to go to the dentist.

Instead, he said they should let their teeth “drop naturally” and that by the time they were a hundred years old, their teeth would have regrown.

When one of the commune members, Sian Davies, became pregnant with Katy, Aravindan told them that the reason her belly was growing larger was due to gas.

When Katy was born, he did not reveal who the father was and discouraged his followers from cuddling or caressing the infant even though they were all raising Katy collectively.

When Katy was four years old, Aishah explained how she and the toddler were “denounced” when Katy had wet herself.

“I was so angry about it, I really felt like running out of the house at that time but I didn’t,” she said, explaining that she did not leave because she had no money or friends and feared being deported.

She would finally leave the commune in October 2013, when the police arrived following Katy’s escape with the help of a sect member and a non-governmental organisation.

However, despite the confinement and even physical abuse, Aishah said she suffered, she said she had been happy living in the commune.

“I thought every day was very interesting and I was never, ever bored. There was always something new to learn. There was something new to do.

“I just can’t imagine I would have had a better life than that,” said Aishah in the documentary.

On Aravindan, she said she was “really inspired by him” and thought he was great at being able to “clarify” his followers’ minds on what to do with their lives.

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