Imran Khan has always been vocal in his support of social causes, be it with a campaign to urge people to vote, or a PIL (public interest litigation) challenging the legal drinking age. On the eve of Independence Day, he shares strong opinions about changes needed in society, particularly among the youth.
What does freedom mean to you?
In my opinion, people tend to take freedom in the wrong way. They take it as: ‘You can’t tell me anything. I can do what I want.’ But the fact is that it comes with responsibilities, which people do not assume. The responsibility is that if you’re getting the benefits of living in a democracy, then it is your duty to be a part of the democratic process. We enjoy the freedom, but we don’t contribute. People don’t vote and they don’t give a damn. And then we complain that everyone is corrupt. As a result, I’ve started feeling that we’re not living in a democracy, though we call ourselves one. A democracy is of the people, by the people, for the people. In our case, we remain in the government of the people, but the ‘by’ and ‘for’ are lost. We’re being governed, and it has become a patriarchy.
So what bothers you the most?
As a young person, I feel under-represented. I feel that my interests, desires, concerns and fears are not addressed in any way. At the same time, I have to assume the responsibility because a massive percentage of our population is under 30. Yet our voice isn’t represented. What does that mean? That you’re not standing up and asking for what is yours. I’ve always felt strongly about this. Since the start of my career, every year, I’ve run campaigns via the media and other platforms to tell people how simple it is to be a part of the process and vote.
Are you not willing to stand in line for two hours and have a voice in your own country?
It’s ridiculous. Personally, it’s more frustrating as, being an American citizen, I can’t vote here. So I feel driven to make up for it in other ways. Even if I manage to get 20 people to vote, I feel like I’ve contributed.
Which has been your most memorable Independence Day?
It was in ’97. I was studying in south India at the time. We completed 50 years of Independence and, somehow, I felt there was a sense of togetherness. Fifty years was a landmark.