Two Indian software engineers, Viswakanth Ankireddy and Pushpendu Ghosh, were among those at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney when the hostage crisis began on Monday morning. They were both reported to be “safe” after Australian security forces stormed the cafe.
TV channels showed Ankireddy, an Infosys employee from Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district, running to safety. “He has come out of the cafe and he is fine. I spoke with him, he is absolutely fine. As a precautionary measure, police have taken him and others to a medical centre. Police will also debrief them and he won’t be able to talk now,” his wife, Shilpa Reddy, said from Sydney.
An Infosys official also called up his parents and informed them. “Thank God, he is safe and this has ended. I don’t know how many people were injured but I hope everyone is fine,” said his father, Ishwar Reddy.
Earlier, reports said that Reddy went to the cafe for a “coffee break”, but did not return. The Infosys office is located within walking distance from the cafe.
While Infosys had earlier confirmed that one of its employee was among the hostages, it released another statement late on Monday night saying that “another Infosys employee was in the siege…both employees have been rescued safely.”
After the hostages were rescued, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that Reddy is “safe”, and “undergoing some medical check-ups”. “Another Indian hostage Pushpendu Ghosh is also safe. We were in constant touch with our mission in Sydney… The PM was monitoring the situation throughout,” she tweeted.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin, also confirmed that the “Indian nationals involved in the hostage crisis in Sydney are safe.”
Reddy did his BE from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, and has been living in Australia for the last seven years. Ghosh studied in Kolkata and has been in Australia since 2009. Both are on assignment with financial institutions. While Reddy is with the National Australian Bank, Ghosh is with Westpac, an Australian bank.
Reddy’s brother, Dhiroodutta, said he received a call from his sister-in-law in Sydney on Monday morning, after she was informed by Infosys officials there about the hostage crisis.
According to officials, while the Indian Consulate, located about 400 metres from the Lindt Cafe, was evacuated for safety reasons, there are several Indian banks and other establishments in the area including the State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Indian tourism office.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the hostage situation as “disturbing”. “Such acts are inhuman and deeply unfortunate. I pray for everyone’s safety,” he tweeted.
Earlier in the day, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu was the first to reveal that an “IT professional from Andhra Pradesh” was among the hostages.
Vish Vishwanathan, former president of the Federation of Australian Indian Associations, told The Indian Express over telephone from Sydney, “Among the over 125,000 population in Sydney, at least 500 to 1000 highly skilled Indian-origin IT or finanancial management professionals are employed by institutions around Martin Place and the adjoining CBD.”