As tension simmered, security forces on Wednesday sealed almost the entire town housing the atomic power plant with anti-nuclear movement leader SP Udayakumar remaining elusive after a somersault on his surrender offer.
Kudankulam, the hotbed of the over year-long protests which turned violent on Monday, has almost been sealed by armed policemen who took positions at important places, especially around the KNPP site, allowing transportation of only essential commodities while clamping down on strangers.
Police said they were checking vehicles and sealed areas around the nuclear plant as shops in nearby Idinthakarai and some other areas remained closed for the third day on Wednesday. Bus services remained off roads in and around Kudankulam.
Inspector general of police Rajeshi Dass told reporters that police were searching for Udayakumar and several others in connection with the Monday's violence.
The stepped up security came as KNPP officials continued to make preparations for loading enriched uranium into the first reactor, which according to plant sources was expected to start in the next few days.
The current bout of intensified protests, including the failed bid to lay siege to the plant, was launched by People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy to prevent loading of fuel for which regulatory authorities gave the approval recently.
A day after PMANE Convener Udayakumar made a dramatic appearance and announced he would turn up before police on Tuesday night, anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday announced he would not surrender.
Shortly after he made the surrender announcement even while the police were on the lookout for him, Udayakumar was whisked away in a boat by his supporters who rejected his offer.
"I met Udayakumar in the morning and requested him not to surrender. He should use all legal remedies...it is extremely important that he remains outside and should not offer himself to police. He is convinced and he agreed," Kejriwal, who has backed the anti-KNPP movement, told reporters.
Kejriwal, a member of the disbanded Team Anna, also attacked the UPA at the Centre and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa for the police action against the protesters and "harassing" locals, who are up in arms against the project.
The agitators on Wednesday ended their 48-hour relay fast to protest the police action which saw them resorting to lathicharge, lobbing teargas shells and conducting house-to-house searches.
Though the fast was to continue till this evening, they gave it up following a request by Kejriwal.
In a shot in the arm for the protesters, DMK president M Karunanidhi slammed the Jayalalithaa government for use of force on them, saying the Centre and state should immediately initiate a dialogue to find an amicable solution.
Squarely blaming his arch rival AIADMK supremo and chief minister J Jayalalithaa for the present situation, he said her government initially "encouraged" the protesters but was now trying to suppress them, aggravating the situation.
MDMK chief Vaiko on Wednesday visited the protest venue at Idinthakarai to express his solidarity with the protesters.
Meanwhile, police charged the PMANE with using people as shield and said they were determined to arrest Udayakumar.
Tirunelveli district superintendent of police Vijayendra Bidari accused Udayakumar and his group of "spreading lies and rumours" to mobilise people and indulge in violence.
He said steps had been intensified to arrest those responsible for the violence on Monday.
However, Udayakumar was quoted by sources close to him as having denied the charge.
The anti-KNPP protest had turned violent on Monday and spread to other areas including neighbouring Tuticorin district where a fishermen was killed in police firing.