The inexplicable hold of 'Comrade Bala'

The inexplicable hold of 'Comrade Bala'
On the far right is Aravindran Balakrishnan and inset are two of his captives - Siti Aishah (left) and Josephine Herivel.

LONDON - When Aravindan Balakrishnan left Singapore to study in Britain in 1963, he landed in the socialist hotbed that was the London School of Economics (LSE).

He embraced the cause wholeheartedly, championing social equality, railing against capitalism and calling for the abolition of personal and property rights. There was scant inkling then that he would go on to take some of these notions to the extreme, long after the collapse of communism in 1989.

Today, Balakrishnan, 73, is accused of holding three women captive for more than three decades in a house he shared with his wife and alleged conspirator Chanda Pattni, 67.

The women - Ms Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab, 69, Ms Josephine Herivel, 57, and Ms Rosie Davies, 30 - were rescued on Oct 25 after one of them called a charity hotline for help.

Perhaps the household did begin life in the 1970s as a genuine leftist commune that the two older women joined freely. But from the police account of emotional control and physical beatings the women endured, it appears there was a much darker, abusive side to Balakrishnan.

These traits first surfaced in 1968, when he became a senior member of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), two years after Mao Zedong unleashed the Cultural Revolution on China. The party leadership regularly denigrated members for putting individual needs above those of the collective.

Mr David Vipond, a former communist who knew Balakrishnan, told the Daily Telegraph that members were often accused of having a "bourgeois, imperialist state of mind" if they complained of tiredness.

"That is how they kept people down, so you could not leave. They told you that you were following your self-interest and letting down the people," he said.

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