Collective Action In The Village Dowry System Politics Essay

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There is a social practice in our village of marrying all the girls of the family at the same time irrespective of their age. As it requires a lot of money to be spent in the marriage ceremony in Rajasthan (because of the dowry practice) which can only be there if it has been a good agricultural year, since the major source of income there is agriculture. This leads to a lot of child marriages in our village and adjacent areas. Therefore, a community action was taken by a group of Muslims and started campaigning for stopping such group marriages, they also started financing complete marriage of some girls so as to avoid economic burden on family. Initially it was an initiative by a few Muslim men but now seeing the benefits slowly and gradually all the castes and communities moved in and became a part of it. Now dowry free marriages take place in between the villages. The leader of the initiative is a Muslim religious leader called "Kadar Khan" who is a "Maulvi" (Muslim priest). He made them aware of the women rights and that these practices are wrong on the humanitarian and religious grounds. Also the "Sarpanch" of the village is involved as a political leader now. Rich people from the towns who have connections with the village are funding the girl marriages and government initiatives such as declaration of marriageable age and free education, books and bicycle to girls is going to bring a lot of change in the condition of women.

Could tactics have played a role?

Tactics are those consciously deliberate acts by which human beings live with each other and deal with the world around them.

In our case the group has adopted as well as developed a lot of methods in order to popularize their ideology and to achieve their motive of eliminating dowry and child marriage. We read the 13 rules of power tactics which helped us to think about this case with a fresh perspective, the rules gave us the theoretical background of what tactics were actually applied there in the village and what could have been done to further enhance the effect of the collective action.

The 6th rule ( A good tactic is one that your people enjoy)was seen to be working in our case as the people of the village believed in the act of theirs and also had a feeling that what they are doing is beneficial for the society as a whole. Also they had religious sentiments attached with it because of the leadership of the "Maulvi"- religious leader. All these things contributed in invoking a feeling of pride and enjoyment thereby acting in favor of the collective action.

The 8th rule of "keeping the pressure on" was truly being followed and there had been a constant effort on members' part to include more and more people in this action and also to spread the action to various villages and parts of the district. They devised new methods and ways to popularize their action by sponsoring the initial marriages and facilitating dowry free marriages. These ways helped them in tremendous ways as they depicted the immediate benefits of their action to the people.

Thus the rural people in all their methods and ways tried hard to make it a successful social movement and aimed at eliminating the social evils by involving the tactics and creating a positive mindset of people towards their mission.

Collective Behavior Theory:

In order to understand the collective action of the village from the framework of different collective behavior theories let us try to relate the actions taken under it with certain collective behavior theories. And the first and foremost collective behavior theory which finds congruence with the collective action seen in the village is the "convergence theory." As according to the convergence theory "the behavior of a crowd is not an emergent property of the crowd but is a result of like-minded individuals coming together" similar was the case we observed in the village where the likeminded people of different caste came together to decide collectively on the exchange of their daughters to avoid the expenses on dowry. This is the beauty of collective action when people were able to raise the voice for something effectively when they were in a group of likeminded people. This was something as a predisposition in each individual's mind but was difficult to voice it effectively at individual level but the convergence of these similar predispositions led to the collective behavior.

But as far as convergence theory is concerned it also has a few limitations and we now try to analyze the collective action within these limitations framework:

The first limitation of convergence theory is that a shift in crowd behavior is observed at times when personal interests of certain people come in between the overall collective goal and similar tendencies were actually observed when sometimes a shift in the crowd behavior was seen due to the dominant people sometimes abandoning the collective decision for their personal motives.

The second limitation of the convergence theory is the limited framework offered by it and we observed this limitation in the collective action of the village also where people who came together were of similar castes forming their individual groups rather than a larger collective formation. And this was mainly that the similar predispositions of the people of similar castes matched first and this played an important role in bringing them together.

The other limitation of the convergence theory is the issue of multiple lateral tendencies of an individual and is difficult to be identified in a group. And these tendencies were actually present in the individuals in the form of dilemma that whether they go with the collective or whether consider their own interests first when some better opportunity comes to them.

Emergent norm Theory:

The individuals of the collective action start as a diverse group of individuals who have different interests and motives( the ideology and aim is always the same in the group as stated in the convergence theory part but the motives to achieve that common aim is different for different individuals). when the group is new the norms are in a formulating stage and may change quickly, as a result new rules begin to emerge in the society which did not exist earlier and as the collective grows older the rules establish themselves as norms. In our case the group initiated the process of dowry free marriages, advocated and protected girl child rights and empowerment but slowly this act can be seen being established as a norm in the society. As more people are joining in it is seen as a wrong and shameful act to give and take dowry. This is spreading in all the nearby villages and all the castes and therefore is establishing itself as a social and regional norm. also the religious leader started this movement as a religious act and stated the then prevalent practices as against the religion, thus it may happen that this anti-dowry campaign may find its way as a religious norm as well.

Maintenance of the cooperation:

Protection of each others interests, thinking beyond the individual and short term benefits and highlighting the benefits of the collective action are the ways of maintenance of the cooperation.

Initially the act was preached in the form of a religious good and as people seldom go against the religion therefore there were no chances of defaulters or protestors.

As the collective spread to various communities other then a single caste the collective came under the domain of the society (as against the caste domain earlier) and was maintained by threatening the defaulters of social outcaste. This was necessary as the whole movement would have failed if one of the members would have given dowry, as this would have made the other members prone to dowry demands.

As the movement further grew in its spread to the nearby villages and the whole district those who favored dowry were forced to give up the practice as good brides were hard to find with dowry. As more and more people came under the movement their bargaining power increased and so, now, the collective people could refuse to the one demanding dowry.

The non-demand of dowry and anti-child marriage movements were in vogue and thus it became shameful to do so in due course of time. This was made possible by establishment of the collective rules as a social norm due to involvement of large no. of individuals belonging to different communities.


Leadership has been described as the "process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task".(source Wikipedia). Every domain of life is affected and influenced by the leadership and it also has changed the dynamics of society, community, country and even of the world several times historically.

Leader is a person who is skilled and dedicated with a vision and who has the capability to put forward his vision in front of the group. Leader is not a person with charismatic personality which is always misunderstood by us. Leader can be a common man who is converted in to leader over a period of time by strengthening and developing the ideology. So a leader can be nurtured and trained. We can see leadership of Mahatma Gandhi as the classical example of developed and nurtured leadership where he developed his ideology over a period of time and he is seen as the great leader of the world.

In the case presented in the previous assignment an example of leadership was presented where a Maulvi (muslim priest) named Kadar khan had developed an ideology against the system of dowry and had a vision to solve this problem by collective action of the particular community and then the village. He thought that dowry is the cause of female foeticide and to merely convince the families to check the female foeticide never can solve the problem as it is perceived as the acute financial threat for the family at the time of girl's marriage. So, a firm solution was needed for this problem and with the context of the village community he outshined with an outstanding solution. In the context of leadership theory we will understand his style of leadership and the factors related to leadership:

Objective of the Leadership:

Leaders always emerge due to some cause either due to resistance against either a ruling body, government or against a group or for a radical change in the existing system or for the improvement in the existing rules or laws. It can be in the form of riot, rebellion, revolt, revolution and as social movement.

Leader always define an objective or a mission for the whole group due to his foresightedness. In the case discussed the objective was decided by the Maulvi to check the dowry system in the village which was seen as the implicit unavoidable responsibility of the girl's father which has to be fulfilled due to social norms. He started the social movement against the dowry by involving the whole Muslim community and used some tactics to curb it.

Here one thing should be mentioned that due to his pre-existing good image in the whole village and the inert inertia against the dowry system in the heart of people accepted him as the undisputed leader. Also he has no girl child and still he was fighting for this cause forced people to believe in his leadership.

6.2 The Primary Leadership Role:

The primary role of this leadership was to encourage people to join together and work against this existing social evil with a suitable course of action which was designed by the Maulvi. Girls and boys of this village were being married in some of the nearby villages. By involving first the communities of all the villages and then after panchayat prepared a roadblock to curb this evil and finally he succeeded due to his plan to involve every household from the muslim community and then of the whole village of his own and the nearby villages.

So we can say that his primary leadership role was to involve all the people from community and then the village by making them aware regarding the foolproof action plan to make this collective action successful and to win the confidence of all the people.

6.3 The Secondary Leadership role:

When a social movement is started by the leader the next set of responsibilities come forward. These are:

To ensure the existing momentum of the movement so it acquires the status of epidemic and influence more and more people and henceforth society.

To prepare the pool of leaders from the group so that it can suffice the critical need of the leadership temporally and spatially.

In this case Maulvi has accomplished both the task beautifully.

In support of the first statement, this movement was spread in many of the nearby villages and communities. Villages have adopted the same solution for the problem of dowry.

This movement has helped to emerge some leaders in the form of panch and Sarpanch or the persons from a particular community.

In the context of theory the leadership of Maulvi provided us the chance of understanding leadership, its style and the roles and responsibilities of a leader.

For the evolution of cooperation we must understand " how to choose effectively". We can draw some conclusion from the prisoner's dilemma and this can be applied in the context of present case.

The forth suggestion of the prisoner's dilemma depilcts:

Don't be too clever

It is always very easy to be too clever but ultimate it creates mutual defection. In this case Maulvi had a very clear image in the community and in the village. Despite a father of son he mobilizes the people to fight against a prevailing system. Due to his clear motif and transparent course of action make peoples' belief more strong in him.

Now two more theory can be drawn form Maulvi and his leadership. To promote the cooperation a leader has to:

Enlarge the shadow of the future

This theory says that people can not see the future outcomes of a movement, so a leader has to project the image of the future in front of the people so that people can understand and map the impact of the outcomes.

In the case presented, Maulvi in the caste panchayat and in the village panchayat convinced villagers about the problem and the course of action. At every moment he tried to convince the villagers the implications of the action taken by them as it will reduce a great financial burden for the whole village. The whole village was indebted due to system of dowry so it was comparatively easy for him to convince the people by projecting the future image of the result.

Teach people to take care about each other

This theory suggests the mutual help for the welfare of opponent. It introduces a term Altruism which defines one person's utility being positively affected by another person's welfare. If we value the happiness of others then this tendency helps to enhance the cooperation in the group.

In the case presented Maulvi was continuously trying to create the tendency of helping each other, as the whole concept was based on the mutual cooperation among the villages. If people had tried not to care each other then this movement would never be successful.

However one more inference can be drawn that the reason of success may be dependent on some other factors other than altruism. It may be due to reciprocity of the actions as both the parties would be benefited by this action. So it may be based on mutual gains rather than altruism.

One very useful inference can be drawn from the pedagogy of the oppressed in the context of present case. According to this theory there should be a process of dialogue in between two individuals to accomplish the action of collectivism. Dialogue can't exist without empathy, affection and tendency to understand the problem of others.

In the case of Maulvi, he tried to understand the problem of the people then he empathised and was very compassionate regarding the issue. In this way he was able to involve every person from his own community and then after villages.