Despite this, as mentioned above, under the influence of modernization many of the functions of clan are getting weak or eroded. We, however, give below some of the important functions of clan:
(i) Protection and Help:
The insecure environment puts tribals always in constant need of help and protection. The clan members provide them security and help at such times.
For instance, if the family is in difficulty, the clan members would come forward to render all material and economic help and when the family is under heavy indebtedness, the clan members would contribute an appropriate amount for redemption.
The clan is an exogamous group and therefore it has to give and take daughters and brides in exchange from other clans. This widens-the area of assistance for a particular clan. The marriage alliance, therefore, is a source of strength for a particular clan.
(ii) Political Hegemony:
In African tribes, as among Indian ones, the clan has a political clout. There are “big men” in a tribal group. These men play an important role to help the tribals integrate themselves in the regional politics.
Politics has been defined differently. According to one definition, politics “can be defined as agency; as the establishment of authoritative decisions.
Second, politics may be seen as a system in which case the word refers to the circulation of power and authority in a society.” In northern Pakistan there is a tribal group of Swat Pathans. They are cereal farmers.
A ciny majority of the Pathans Pakthuns own virtually all of the land, while the majority of the rest of the population are their tenants. The Pathans are patrilineal and all formal political power is vested with men. Only sons can inherit from their fathers, but all sons have rights of inheritance.
In order to expand his fields, a Pakthun needs a large political following, or in other words, he needs many clients. It is for this reason that he gives his land for cultivation to his clansmen.
This makes a particular clan politically strong. In our country, the dominant clans get a larger share of political power. In western India, the Maira clan of Bhils has dominance in most of the panchayat samitis.
(iii) Wielding of Sanction:
The clan has a right to levy a penalty for non-observance of tribal traditions. It can oblige the clan member to follow a certain course of action. In western India and parts of Madhya Pradesh, if a member of a clan is killed by a member of another clan, the former takes revenge. The loss of a man is the loss of a clan.
Therefore, all the clan members make it a point to apply the primitive law-eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth-and annihilate the members of another clan. On the other hand, if the clan member disobeys the tradition of his clan, he is ousted and remains in isolation. The clan can inflict physical injury also on a deviant member.
All the males and the females of a clan constitute, in a broad way, a common blood group. They are constrained to observe the rules of exogamy. Deviance in the observation of exogamy is penalized severely.
(v) Religion and Customs:
Each clan has its deities, ancestors and totems. On occasions of birth, marriage, death and scarcities, the clan deities are worshipped. It is firmly believed by all the members of the clan that only by observing respect for the deities can a crisis be overcome.
The functions of clan are several. However, in the modern context of development, many of these functions have become extinct. Normally, no one comes forward to help the clan members, particularly in the case of financial difficulties. Politics also has become individual-centric.
The changes in the functions of clan have made the institution ineffective. Empirically, one could very easily observe that there are conflicts pertaining to land and development benefits.
There is much competition to find out opportunities of employment and in this field there are disputes and conflicts in a particular clan. Among Indian tribes, it is really difficult to find any substantial unity among the clan members.
However, there is only one function of clan which stands as a high tower and that is the field of exogamy. Normally, one cannot find a person having marriage alliance within his own clan. In this respect, the clan stands as bedrock.