Suspense prevailed over the surrender of anti-nuclear movement leader S P Udayakumar as his whereabouts were unknown on Tuesday night after his dramatic appearance and announcement that he would turn up before police.
Udayakumar, convenor of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), turned up at nearby Idinthakarai, venue of the 48-hour fast launched on Monday and announced he would surrender at 9 pm in the presence of a "prominent non-political national leader."
But the emotional protestors said they would not allow the surrender and soon thereafter, Udayakumar was whisked away by his supporters in a boat, leaving others clueless about his whereabouts.
Addressing the over 1,000 protesters a day after police opened fire at a group of fishermen in Tuticorin district killing one of them, he asserted the protest against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant would continue even if he was arrested.
The Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) Convenor alleged the Tamil Nadu Government backed by the Centre had let loose repression on protesters.
"I am not afraid of being arrested ... even if they arrest me, people will continue the agitation," said Udhayakumar, against whom police have launched a hunt after Monday's foiled bid by the protesters to lay siege to KNPP.
Police said the situation was calm but they are keeping a strict vigil.
The entire road leading to Idinthakarai was heavily guarded and police could be seen in strength in and around Kudankulam, which had turned into a battlefield between protesters and police.
The anti-nuclear protests also reached Chennai, Coimbatore and Erode where activists of MDMK, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and some Tamil outifts staged demonstrations condemning the police action before they were arrested.
A bus was stoned on arterial Anna Salai in Chennai while protesters tried to block a train in Coimbatore, police said.
Anti-corruption activist and member of disbanded Team Anna Arvind Kejriwal reached the fast venue and expressed his solidarity with the protestors.
The year-long stir turned violent yesterday, with protestors engaging police in pitched battles that led to firing after lathicharge and bursting of teargas shells.
The agitation was intensified with protesters announcing siege of the plant last week after authorities gave the go ahead for loading uranium fuel into the plant. Madras High court also gave the green signal for KNPP's commissioning.
Police said 51 persons have been taken into custody in connection with Monday's violence.
The PMANE leader had earlier said he was surrendering as he had information that police were plotting a house-to-house search on the pretext that five of their men had been taken hostages by the protesters.