A glass filled with some water would appear half empty to some and half-filled to others. There is certainly the objective element in the event that of there being a glass and some water in it; yet whether we remember seeing a half filled glass or seeing a half empty glass we still have the truth albeit different versions of it. The nature of truth seems to be one that has both elements of objectivity and subjectivity embedded in it.

Historical events are no different. Example: Gandhi was shot byGandhi Godse. Gandhi died and Godse was sentenced to death. The objectivity of this event ends here. Many remember Gandhi as the martyr and yet there are many who remember Godse as the real martyr. The historians stand divided. Problem arises if historians defending one version get precedence over the other? How can this problem be resolved? Can any tool be used to decide which truth is morally more correct than the other? Can ‘law’ do the job?

Is law objective? If it is then, can its objectivity help to tilt the balance, at least morally, in favor of one of the various versions of the truth? Objectivity in law and ethics is strongly desired yet not guaranteed. Objectivity in law would mean, all judges irrespective of their background would arrive at the same conclusion about a particular event. In the above example, that Gandhi was murdered by Godse and that murder attracts a death penalty is undisputed. Thus, tilting balance firmly in favor of one of the versions. However can the jurisprudence of a few judges carry the veto power? What about public opinion?

The illegality of an event doesn’t always stop the masses from supporting it. Interestingly making salt by a ‘native’ was illegal in India even though it was against the opinion of the masses. Giving precedence to mass opinion Gandhi resorted to the illegal activity of making salt and forced the law to be changed. Yet can mass opinion be held accountable? At one point of time burning of a widow on her dead husband’s pyre was a mass opinion, but we know what happened to that! So can decision on morality of an interpretation of an historical event be left to mass opinion?

My conclusion is that, when a historical event has multiple interpretations, we can’t rely on opinion of the masses. Also, historians with differing viewpoints should get equal opportunity to be heard and read; yet I believe that the jurisprudence should determine the moral righteousness of one version over the others.

 

 

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