In 2013, Malaysians were shocked by the news of one of our own being held captive, brainwashed, and abused for 30 years. The victim, Aishah Wahab, who seems to be residing in the UK now at the age of 72, was under the influence of Aravindan Balakrishnan.
Balakrishnan (aka Bala) was born in Kerala, India but migrated to Singapore – where his father was a soldier – when he was 10. As a student at Raffles Institution and later University of Singapore, he became increasingly politically active and believed that as a “revolutionary socialist,” he would have been imprisoned had he admitted he was a communist. He immigrated to the UK in 1963 at the age of 23 on a British Council scholarship and married his wife Chandra in 1971.
Three years later, an already radicalised Bala was expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain. He responded by publishing a leaflet calling his old party members “fascists.” Eventually, he formed a cult of roughly 10 female members and moved to Brixton in ’76 as the Workers Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. This is when things turned strangely from Bernie-against-the-machine to Manson-like cult insanity.
The new 2017 documentary by BB2, The Cult Next Door by filmmaker Vanessa Engle, reveals the horrific details of abuse and bizarre nature behind the case, which includes Bala’s mind control device J.A.C.K.I.E. – an acronym for Jehovah Allah Christ Krishna and Immortal Easwaran – that is said to have the power to cause natural disasters and incite wars.
“I heard about this group around 10 years ago, when I made Lefties, a film about political activists in a squatted street in Brixton in the ‘70s for the BBC. One of my interviewees laughed, recalling the craziness of the time, and said, ‘We even had Maoists ‘round here”’, said the filmmaker who had not known of the horrors happening down the street at the time in an interview with The Telegraph.
Bala himself claimed to be immortal and Aishah, in one scene, related his wisdom that his followers should never go to the dentist (or the hospital for that matter) as to “let teeth fall out naturally,” so a new set of teeth can start to grow back at the age of 100.
The abuse suffered by the captives – the women he brainwashed as well as Project Prem (when he tried to raise his daughter collectively by the cult) – is downright depressing. Although Aishah doesn’t seem to be any less sympathetic to their leader Bala, she appears to be still loyally performing her duties as a member of Bala’s cult, downplaying his atrocities that includes rape and the death of his captives.
Watch The Cult Next Door in the video below:
More from the BBC here.