AMAR SOHAL

BIO

ABOUT ME

I am a second-year doctoral student in Intellectual History at Merton College, University of Oxford. I study the political philosophy of modern India, and am currently focusing on Muslim thought during the mid-twentieth century.

INTELLECTUAL INTEREST

I am broadly interested in a historical problem that continues to vex modern South Asia: in what ways can societies that are religiously, ethnically, and linguistically diverse be imagined as, and evolve into, political communities?

MY THESIS

My PhD thesis, supported by the Clarendon Fund, explores the political thought of those Indian Muslim intellectuals who opposed the separatist Pakistan Movement of the Muslim League prior to India's Partition in 1947.

OUTREACH

With the hope of making history digestible for non-specialist audiences, I have involved myself in a series of outreach projects and begun to author and anchor documentary films based on my research. The first of which, 'Azad and Jinnah', released at the beginning of 2016.

BEFORE MERTON

Before arriving at Merton College in 2015, I completed an AHRC funded Master's degree in Indian History and Hindi Literature at Balliol College, Oxford in 2014 and received my Bachelor's degree in History from University College London in 2013.

NEAR FUTURE

I am currently making a documentary for release in 2018. After my PhD, I plan to return to my earlier work on pre-independence Muslim nationalism and Sikh communitarianism. I would also like to begin a project on the Hindu Right.

AZAD and JINNAH

This hour-long documentary that I scripted and presented for the RAH Foundation, explores the political ideas of two rival Muslim leaders between 1937 and 1947. Maulana Azad, the long-serving president of the Indian National Congress and independent India's first Minister of Education; and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the foremost leader of the Muslim League and Pakistan's first Governor-General. The film is based almost exclusively on my own research and that of my four eminent interviewees: Dr Farzana Shaikh (Chatham House, London), Dr Faisal Devji (St Antony's College, University of Oxford), Professor Francis Robinson (Royal Holloway, University of London), and Dr Shruti Kapila (Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge). Vanya Bhargav, a third-year PhD student (St Antony's College, University of Oxford), was also interviewed for the film.

Uncovering their attitudes towards liberal democracy, Islam, and Indian history, culture and geography, it shows how Azad and Jinnah's political thought often diverged, but on occasions thrillingly converged, as the subcontinent's fate hung in the balance. Seeking to crush the popular myths surrounding the turbulent decade before independence and partition, the stories of these two illustrious careers are consistently brought into dialogue with those of their equally eminent contemporaries: Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Liaquat Ali Khan, and Sardar Patel. Scholarly commentary is interspersed with archival photographs and dramatizations that bring history 'alive'. Directed by Satinder Sohal, Aaron Virdee plays Azad and Amerjit Deu plays Jinnah. Rishabh Sharma and Ankit Suri have produced a crisp music score, while Lawrence Mathias has contributed some stunning illustrations.

Released in January 2016, it has since screened at Oxford, SOAS, the LSE and Cambridge. The film toured India in September 2016, and is now available on Vimeo.