On 23 June this year Bangladesh's former minister of education and freedom fighter Shahidul Islam posted a video message congratulating a Facebook group for crossing the one million member mark.
"I think the importance of the platform is immense to know the history of the country and the liberation war. My best wishes for this platform is to go much further," said the minister, who also is a member of the group and enjoys browsing through its wall.
It may seem odd why a minister would take the time to send a message to a Facebook group. But this is no ordinary group. "Bangladesher Dushprappo Chobi Somogro'' – the recipient of the minister's message – is no longer a mere online page and has become a culturally important platform.
And behind this increasingly popular and influential FAcebook group is its very young founder Giridhar Dey.
Since the launch of this group by Dey on 16 June 2016, "Bangladesher Dushprappo Chobi Somogro" has become one of the largest and most popular history-oriented online platforms and galleries in Bangladesh.
Giridhar Dey started the group and page with his collection of 10,000 old, historic and rare pictures of Bangladesh. Six years later, there are 70,000 rare photos of Bangladesh in the group's archive.
"We all have the desire to know and see the past. And the only way to see this past is through the old pictures and video clips. Today we live in the digital age. Even 30 or 40 years ago, video recording was not so easy, but at that time photography became quite popular, so our most popular means of looking at the past is looking at the pictures. And now if you want you can easily see these old pictures on "Bangladesher Dushprappo Chobi Somogro"," Dey said.
A recent accounting master's graduate from Govt Rajendra College, Faridpur, Giridhar Dey was born in 1995 in the Chandahat village of Nagarkanda Upazila of the district.
He was a history enthusiast from his childhood, owing a lot to his father Shri Sudhir Kumar Dey Banik's interest in history. A regular newspaper reader, Dey's father used to save old newspapers and magazines. Being a noble family, they also had a large collection of antique items, newspapers, photographs and various old documents.
During communal riots in their area in 2001, this valuable collection was ransacked and destroyed. It wasn't possible for the family to recover anything as they went away and lived elsewhere for about a year.
When they came back, Dey's father began to build back the collection slowly. After his father died in 2010, Giridhar took up the responsibility of his father's collection.
In 2012, he launched a self-funded website and Facebook page named "Bangladeshi Photo Archive" where he shared the photos of his collection. The website did not continue after 2015, but his private collection continued to grow. And then in 2016 he started the Facebook page.
The Facebook page of "Bangladesher Dushprappo Chobi Somogro" currently has about 2 lakh followers, and the Facebook group has more than 10 lakh members.
Every day hundreds of old and historical photos are shared by different members of his Facebook group. Dey checks every picture carefully and publishes them on the group and page.
Giridhar Dey believes that a large part of the country can learn history by simply seeing the photos on the platform. As it happens, a lot of the youth are also gaining interest in history and becoming conscious about collecting historically important items.
"We are not limited to just preserving history. We occasionally organise various sessions on history. For example, discussion about the liberation war with the youth and respected freedom fighters. Apart from this, we do various welfare activities in different parts of the country" Giridhar Dey said.
Although the sole executive member of the platform, Giridhar Dey never struggles to find volunteers whenever he needs to organise an event or discussion meeting.
Dey is very conscious about copyright infringements also. "I am very aware of the issue of copyright of the images that I archive and publish. I use the pictures with the permission of the photographer or people close to the photographer if they are not alive".
In recognition of his contribution to collecting, promoting and preserving history, Giridhar Dey received the Joy Bangla Youth Award 2021.