The second round of the Panchayat elections in Madhya Pradesh started on an ominous note with a dalit youth being burnt alive by unidentified persons in the Vidisha district of the state late Thursday night.

Prem Narain Ahirwar, a resident of Mehlua village, according to his own testimony, was attacked from behind by unidentified persons who doused him in kerosene and set him on fire. While local media reports say the victim's condition is critical, the district police said it was stable.

“He has been referred to Bhopal but is out of danger and will survive,” said Additional S.P. Prashant Khare. On being asked whether the attack was politically motivated, with the panchayat elections in the background, he said “nothing is clear now as the case is still under investigation”.

This is the second case of crime against dalits in less than two months in Vidisha. A 15-year-old boy was set on fire in the district on November 30 last year. This is also the second such case reported this month from the state. A minor dalit girl was set on fire in the first week of the new year in the Burhanpur district of the state.