The Cult Next Door

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The Cult Next Door is a 2017 documentary directed by Vanessa Engle which tells the story of a bizarre British cult which came to light in 2013 when three women emerged from a flat in Brixton, London, after spending decades trapped in captivity under the spell of a charismatic leader who believed that he would lead an international communist revolution. The group worshiped China’s communist dictator Chairman Mao.

The cult was known as the Workers’ Institute of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought and was founded in 1974 by Aravindan Balakrishnan, a man of Indian descent, after his expulsion from the Communist Party of England. The members lived together in a commune and nearby co-housing and any member with an income was expected to give a share of it to the organization. The groups headquarters on Acre Lane, Brixton, was raided by police in 1978 under suspicion of drug offences, nine members of the group were arrested for assault of police officers.

It was the raid by police which pushed the group underground from 1980, at the stage it consisted of just Aravindan Balakrishnan and seven loyal female members, they lived together in various houses in South London. It existed until 2013 when Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chandra were arrested on suspicion of domestic abuse and enslavement, three women including Balakrishnan’s daughter Katy Morgan-Davies were taken into the protective custody of the state.

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