To untangle the sordid controversy over the removal, restitution and re-removal of Alok Verma as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director, it is useful to look at the affair from the perspective of ‘dharma’.
Now the word ‘dharma’ is derived from the root ‘dhr’, which means ‘to hold together, to preserve, maintain or keep’. Dharma, therefore, is a set of norms, rules, behaviours, thoughts and actions that keep something together. It is contextual, depending on what the ‘something’ is.
Of course, the word ‘dharma’ is also used to refer to righteousness, duty, morality, law and religious denomination. But at the heart of it, dharma is still about holding things together: from day-to-day interpersonal affairs, to human relationships to political institutions. It follows that ‘adharma’— that is non-dharma or anti-dharma — would cause things to break up or collapse. The CBI controversy is an example.
Indeed, it is impossible to diagnose the steady collapse of governance and public administration in India without reference to ‘dharma’. The simple question is: Are the individuals concerned acting in ways that hold the institution together? Are they acting in ways that preserve the trust that people have placed in them? Are they acting in ways that the social contract between the government and the governed is maintained?