Six counts of indecent assault, four counts of rape, two counts of bodily harm, one count of cruelty to a child under 16. These, as we saw yesterday, were the charges of which a Maoist cult leader by the name of Aravindan Balakrishnan was convicted in December in a London court.
The child in question was Katy Morgan-Davies, who was born in 1983 and who, during her childhood and youth, was beaten regularly and prohibited from attending school or making friends. Her mother was a member of Balakrishnan’s commune, the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre, who died under suspicious circumstances in 1997. After Katy’s liberation from the commune, she told a BBC reporter that her father had “wanted the whole world to be like the collective where he is in charge and everybody is his slave.” Indeed, she said he “was using the sect as a ‘pilot unit’ to learn how to control people before taking over the world” – which made her think: “God, if the whole world is going to be like this, what way out is there? How am I going to live? I cannot live in this. So I used to think that the best way would be to die.”
Katy had actually escaped once – way back in 2005 – only to be returned to her father by the police. In 2013, it was the police who saved her, plucking her out of her father’s homemade hell at a time when she suffering from diabetes and desperately in need of medical treatment. At Balakrishnan’s trial, Katy described the commune as the headquarters of a “hate cult” that “was full of violence and horror.” Calling her father a “narcissist and a psychopath,” she said: “The people he looked up to were people like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein – you couldn’t criticise them….They were his gods and his heroes. These were the sort of people he wanted to emulate.” She said she’d “felt like a caged bird with clipped wings” and had finally left the house because she “didn’t want to live like an animal anymore.”
One detective said that Katy had been so profoundly indoctrinated that when she finally was freed from the house, she “genuinely believed…she was going to explode – that her life would come to an end.”
In late January, Balakrishnan was finally sentenced to 23 years in prison by Judge Deborah Taylor, who told him in open court that he’d been “ruthless” in his “exploitation” of his followers, that he’d “engendered a climate of fear, jealousy and competition for [his] approval,” that he’d treated his daughter like “an experiment,” subjecting her to “a catalogue of mental and physical abuse,” and that these were “grave and serious crimes conducted over a long period of time” for which he had “shown no remorse whatsoever.”
Ideologically, of course, what Balakrishnan preached was hardly orthodox Maoism. But in his intellectual tyranny, and his employment of physical abuse and psychological terror to enforce his power, he was a Maoist through and through – a man expertly schooled in the ways of totalitarianism. And the fact that this bullying mediocrity was able to draw so many followers only reflects the perennial power of utopian ideology to attract the gullible and psychologically needy.